The group, led by OFC Head of Social Responsibility Franck Castillo, included project managers from Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu, who gathered for the three-day meeting to reflect on the strategies and achievements of Just Play since its launch in 2009.
The project managers delivered reports on the progress of Just Play in their countries and discussed some of the developments and challenges with Martin Roberts of the Australian Sports Commission, who oversees Australia’s Pacific Sports Partnership and his team at the Australian Institute of Sport.
“It’s a challenge with a programme that is fairly young to actually have it grow and adapt as the years go on,” Roberts says.
“With the short time frame they’ve had for the commencement of the programme, to deliver it as they have is a wonderful reflection of how much work has been done by OFC and the project managers, as well as their volunteers throughout the Pacific.”
According to Roberts, using sport as a tool for social development is often a difficult task because, in a lot of developing countries, merely running the sport is a large enough challenge in itself.
“I think one thing OFC has done is to adapt their programme and be proactive in a way that it changes throughout its life,” he says.
“That’s really allowed Just Play to change according to the needs of the Australian Government and the partnership between OFC and the Football Federation Australia, the Australian Government through AusAID and the Australian Sports Commission.”
Developed by the OFC social responsibility and technical departments, Just Play was launched in Tonga and has since been introduced in Vanuatu, Tahiti, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and South Auckland in New Zealand.
OFC is also currently working in New Zealand with Special Olympics (NZ) on a Just Play programme for people with mental disabilities.
OFC is working closely with UEFA, the Government of Australia – through its agencies the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Sports Commission – and Football Federation Australia to roll out the programme across the Pacific. The Australian Government has shown its support to the project by contributing AU$4million.
In South Auckland, Just Play is supported by OFC’s partnership with the Sir John Walker Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation, Counties Manukau Sport and Auckland Football Federation.