The future of the OFC Just Play grassroots programme in Guadalcanal has received new energy in the form of former Solomon Islands beach soccer team goalkeeper Henry Padaverana, who was recently appointed as regional coordinator for the province.Padaverana, who starred for the Bilikiki in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups of Marseille 2008 and Dubai 2009, joined the Just Play team last month and has already made a significant contribution by assisting in the success of the first training course in the Guadalcanal plains.
His experience as a football player and knowledge of the local area helped make him a valuable asset during the course, the first step in the extension of Just Play into Guadalcanal.
Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) special projects manager Phillip Ohoto'ona is pleased with the commitment Padaverana has shown and looks forward to working with him in further workshops on Guadalcanal.
"Having a local person is a benefit but the experience Padaverana has as a player makes him an effective asset," Ohoto'ona says.
"The local people know him and the children also look up to him as a national icon. I believe having him around will inspire the little ones to dream as big as Padaverana did."
For Padaverana, who comes from the south western region of Guadalcanal, the switch is about taking the next step in his career. After being a player for more than a decade, he says he has already achieved his goals on the pitch and now wants to become a football development tool for his province.
"I think it is a logical step for me to take up a developmental role after my time as a player. While I still take an interest in playing I am starting to think about how I can contribute to my community and this role with Just Play is the perfect launching pad for me," he says.
"Just Play is such a wonderful programme and I am really excited to be part of it. I think it brings good value to the community and it promotes a sport that our people enjoy. I feel really proud to be a member of the Just Play team."
Padaverana is not the only former international taken on board by the SIFF Just Play office. Commins Menapi, a former Australian national league player and one of the most well known forwards in the Solomon Islands, and ex-national women's team player Diane Justus are also part of the crew responsible for running Just Play, an OFC initiative that promotes physical activity for primary-aged children while encouraging community involvement and healthy living.
As well as Guadalcanal, Just Play is active in Honiara, Western Province and Malaita and plans are in place for it to be extended to the rest of Solomon Islands from June. More than 11,000 young children, including 4,000 girls, in those provinces are part of Just Play and since 2010 more than 300 volunteers have been trained to teach the programme. Over 670 Just Play packs - containing 2000 footballs and much other equipment - have been distributed to the schools and communities involved.