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Unusual jobs in football: Technical director of the Kiribati Islands FA

Kevin McGreskin is the new technical director of the Kiribati Islands FA. Total Football editor Mark Roach wanted to know more – and started by asking him how he even found out about the vacancy in the first place...

Technical Director of the Kiribati Islands FA – It’s not your ‘average’ job in football, how on earth did that come about?

To be honest, I was looking for something to do that was a bit different and an opportunity to broaden my horizons, so I sent an email and my CV to a few countries to see if there were any coaching jobs available. I had a few replies and the role at the KIFA was something that really appealed to me.

After a few discussions about the role and what we were hoping to achieve I took on the job, and I've had to throw myself into it straight away by trying to get sponsors and partners on board for the KIFA and the National Teams.

What’s your background?

I played a bit of non-league when I was younger and I did my first coaching course 17 years ago and have progressed from there. I now hold the UEFA A Licence through three different national associations, which is a fairly unique achievement and something I am very proud of.

Over the past few years I have become heavily involved in cognitive aspects of performance of players such as awareness, attention and concentration amongst others. Lately I have been working essentially as a consultant coach, a specialist in this aspect of performance.

I work with a number of professional clubs from first-team to youth academy and a number of National Associations by presenting on their coach education courses or working with their national elite youth players.

What appealed to you about the role?

It is a challenge that's a bit different, and it will be a great experience. It may sound a bit of a cliche but it also offers me the opportunity to do something positive and make a difference.

What are your aims in the role?

The ultimate aim is for us to achieve FIFA membership, so there are a number of aspects that we will have to work on for that. Our recent application was unsuccessful at this time but FIFA have promised some assistance in our efforts to develop the game. And we will continue working towards meeting the membership criteria.

I will also be looking at implementing a structure to help develop all levels of the game on the islands, from the grassroots to the international level. Indeed, one of the aims must be to make us more competitive at international level within the Pacific region.

Achieving this will have a hugely positive impact on the development at the grassroots, and will offer the young players something to aspire to.

How much did you know about the Kiribati Islands before you heard about the opportunity?

To be honest, not a lot at all! I had heard a little about Tarawa but could certainly not claim to be knowledgeable about the country at all.

I was familiar, to a degree, with that general area in the world due to hearing stories of the threat posed by rising sea levels to a number of countries there, including Kiribati.

For the uninitiated, describe where the Kiribati Islands are?

Well they are 12 hours ahead of the UK so they are pretty much the opposite side of the world. Kiribati is a in the South Pacific, with part of the country straddling the Equator, and the country is made of 33 islands that are spread around an area almost as big as the continental US.

During conversation I normally tell people to think about Fiji, and then it's a 3 hour flight north of there.

What level of interest is there in football in the Kiribati Islands?

There is a huge passion for the game in the country, and the Kiribati people take any opportunity to play the game whenever they can. Due to the nature of the islands there isn't much room for football pitches, yet there is still at least one on each of the islands!

However, because of this the pitches that are available are played on almost all of the time, which means the surfaces aren't the best. But that doesn't stop them, they just love the opportunity to play!

How big a task do you think you have taken on?

Well it's a huge task really. But the members of the KIFA are passionate about developing the game and FIFA have already indicated they will offer some assistance, so that should make it a little easier. It's still going to involve a lot of work but it's something I am really looking forward to.

What do you expect your biggest challenges to be?

The facilities and the logistics of the country are the main challenges.

Because of the limited number of areas available for football, and the combination of the climate and soil type, the fields currently available are in relatively poor condition as they are being played on all the time.

This is great from the perspective of participation levels and that people are out there playing the game, but it also means that we have no home field available that is suitable to host an international match.

As a result, any international match is a major project in terms of both planning and finances. Indeed, our proposed fixture against Fiji later in the year will only go ahead if we can raise the sponsorship to meet the financial commitment that is needed...... and Fiji can be considered as one of our ‘local’ rivals!

The installation of a 3G facility would be of huge benefit to us as it would help promote the game further and develop the standards in the country it would be in almost constant use , would also result in the added benefit of less wear on our stadium pitch.

This would give us the much needed time to nurture and maintain it it to international standard, and help us achieve our ambition of hosting a home international match.

Maybe this is one of the projects FIFA can help us with.

What will you do on a day to day basis?

As I said, most of my time just now is taken by trying to find sponsors and brand partners for the KIFA and national Teams.

Once we can achieve a certain level of funding other things will start to fall into place, and we can implement a range of programs at various levels to really move the game forward in the country.

I will also be looking at arranging a tour for the international team next year, with a visit to the UK a strong possibility. This would be a great experience for our players and really help raise the profile of the Kiribati Islands FA, and it would be great if we could organise some friendly matches against the amateur teams of England, Scotland and Wales whilst we are over.

So, as you can see, it isn't your average coaching role where I will just get to spend time out on the pitch with the players!

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