BY ROMULUS HUTA
THE Solomon Islands’ latest futsal prodigy and 16 year old Raphael Le’ai is one of the 35 players drafted into the national under-16 training squad released by Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) yesterday.
Le’ai led the Solomon Islands under-17 futsal team to triumph in last year’s Oceania Futsal Youth Tournament in New Zealand to qualify into this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, where futsal will make its debut.
Finishing as the top scorer in the Oceania championship racking up a total of 34 goals in six matches, the lad from West Kwaio’s selection into the training squad was based upon recommendation from officials within the SIFF’s technical department.
The national under-16 head coach Stanley Waita described Le’ai as having a lot of potential in the conventional 11-aside code despite already being a futsal star.
“He’s a good player worthy of representing the country and his selection into the training squad was based on recommendations from other coaches.
“I will talk to him to see if he could remain to train with us in the lead up to this important qualifier.
“I will also give him an option whether to decide he play with us in the 11-a-side or back to futsal.”
Apart from Le’ai, Waita admitted that all of the players selected into the training squad for the national under-16 from the recent Youth Solomon Cup are equally quality players.
“Our selection was done according to certain criteria and this involves technique and fitness.
“But I must assure everyone that every single player selected for the training squad must work hard to earn a spot in the final cut.”
Meanwhille, the national under-16 training squad will begin training in March.