For the first time in its 49 year history the Oceania Football Confederation will be represented by three candidates on the FIFA Council – football’s highest governing body.
Sandra Fruean, vice-president of Football Federation American Samoa was elected as the OFC Female Member to the FIFA Council 2016-2019 following a secret ballot.
Joining her will be Cook Islands Football Association President Lee Harmon, who was appointed by proclamation following the withdrawal of fellow candidate Rajesh Patel of Fiji.
OFC President David Chung retains his role as FIFA Vice-President, thus rounding out the three OFC representatives to the FIFA Council.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino could not make the journey to Oceania to attend the Extraordinary Congress and was represented by his advisor Mattias Grafstrom.
Infantino, via video link, expressed his excitement about this new dawn for his friends from OFC who he has affectionately named “the Ocean’s 11”.
“It’s an important day in which you will elect two new members to the FIFA Council,” he said.
“I hope that you will make the right decision today. You have some excellent candidates and you are all very, very close to my heart.”
Chung noted the marking of such an historic milestone for the Confederation.
“It is clear that three voices will be louder than one, so we can only hope that the decisions taken today will mean the voice of Oceania and its members will continue to be heard,” Chung said.
“I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to be one of those voices. I believe we have made great progress for football in Oceania in recent times, and your support and confidence play a big part in that.
“I would also like to congratulate all four candidates for this election, Lee Harmon, Rajesh Patel, Suzanne Griffin and Sandra Fruean.
“Just to be candidates in this election is important – for you as individuals and also for your Member Associations. It shows your passion for football, your passion for developing the game and your desire to make changes for the better in this game we all love.”
For Fruean it was an emotional occasion, to which she expressed immense gratitude to each of the Member Associations which voted for her.
“Words are not enough to express how much I would like to thank you for your support,” she said to the gathered delegates.
“I am well prepared to serve on the council and I will be working hard to represent our confederation’s interests. I will give my utmost dedication to this role and I will bring my strong working ethic,” said Fruean.
“I would like to make a special mention of my President, Faiivae Iuli Alex Godinet, who nominated me for this role and who has given me overwhelming support, thank you.
“While I am here, I would also like to thank my fellow FFAS Executive Committee members, Amio Mavaega-Luvu, the CEO Tavita Taumua and the staff who have all been great supporters of me during this campaign.
“To my parents Senator Tuaolo Manaia and Pa’i Fruean, and my children, those at Nana’s Inc. and all my colleagues at DHSS back home in American Samoa, I heard your prayers and felt your presence here with me today and have to thank you also for always supporting me in my pursuit to grow the game in American Samoa and Oceania.”
A servant of football for over 25 years, Harmon was equally touched to have the support not only of the delegates, but of fellow candidate Rajesh Patel.
“I would like to thank the Member Associations for supporting me, and I would like to thank Rajesh for showing solidarity and unity for the benefit of Oceania in his support of my candidature,” Harmon said.
“Going forward, for all matters concerning the Oceania Football Confederation I, along with Sandra and the OFC President Mr. Chung, will be sure to consult all our members before taking any decisions on your behalf.”
The election was held in Auckland, New Zealand and was observed by representatives of the FIFA Governance Committee, Mr Felipe Cantuarias and Professor Damien Chalmers.