New Samoa women's football coach dreaming of World Cup debut

Former Premier League striker Paul Ifill is eying a place at the 2023 World Cup after being appointed coach of the Samoa national women's football team.

The ex-Barbados international made over 100 appearances for Wellington Phoenix in the A-League following a career in England that included stints with Milwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace.

Ifill will remain in charge of the Wairarapa United women's team in New Zealand and is looking forward to his first role with a national team.

"My main aim throughout my coaching career has always been to make everyone I work with better at what they do, whether it be the coaches, team managers or players," he said.

"With the FIFA Women's World Cup on the horizon in 2023, there is a clear opportunity for another team from Oceania to qualify. We acknowledge that this will be a tough journey, but the rewards could be life changing for many."

With New Zealand already qualified as tournament co-hosts alongside Australia, Ifill is targeting a top-two finish at next year's OFC Women's Nations Cup, which would put them into the final global qualifier.

"That sort of tournament is massive. For any island nation to be able to get to that stage and be within spitting distance of a World Cup is something pretty special and if you get a Pacific nation to a World Cup it's life-changing for all the people involved."

Ifill's former mentor at Team Wellington is also joining Samoa as coach of the senior men's side.

Matt Calcott led Team Welllington to the New Zealand domestic title in 2016 and and twice finished runner-up to Auckland City in the OFC Champions League.

The Director of Football for North Wellington AFC is a former Cook Islands Under 20 coach and is keen to get to work.

"It's really important to work through our scouting and talent ID networks and see what the group looks like and from there, as a starting point, we can ensure the group starts working physically over the next couple of months, especially the group in Samoa."

Both Ifill and Calcott are familiar with Football Federation Samoa Technical Director Jess Ibrom, who himself is only a few months into his role.

"I've known of Paul since I was Head of Academy at the Wellington Phoenix and I've been fortunate to see closely what Paul has given to the game in New Zealand not just as a professional footballer but also as a coach with the Wairarapa women's team and his own private academy, he said.

"Matt has been one of the most successful coaches in the Oceania region in recent years. He successfully made Team Wellington into one of the top two teams in New Zealand competing with Auckland City at the national and OFC Champions League level on a regular basis."

Covid-19 travel restrictions mean all three men are unable to leave New Zealand at the moment but Ifill said they are in constant communication with each other and the team in Apia.

"The three of us can get together,whether it's face to face or on Zoom. We've got a WhatsApp group just sharing ideas and making sure that when we do get there we can hit the ground running and the people that we're working with or we are coaching have had a head start really."