Dennis Ifunaoa had an amazing season playing for Labasa in Fiji. The 27 years old player from Solomon Islands was a key player for Babasiga Lions in this unforgettable year in the history of the team. His international experience meant a lot for Labasa throughout the season specially in crunch times and big matches.
Ifunaoa played for some important clubs in the Pacific Islands like Hekari United (Papua New Guinea), Henderson Eels and Solomon Warriors (Solomon Islands) playing in OFC Champions League for many seasons – Playing for these teams brought more experience to my football career” he said. With this experience in many national leagues, he also pointed some differences between the football structure in these countries “In Fiji they have a National League and three other tournaments (Fiji FACT, Battle of the Giants and Inter-District Championship) while Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea only have the league. If these countries had more tournaments like in Fiji players could play for more times throughout the year. It would help them to develop more”.
He won two trophies for Labasa during the season: Battle of the Giants and Inter-District Championship. His biggest moment in Fiji took place in the Inter-District Championship when he scored an amazing goal at the extra time in the final against Suva to give Labasa the win and the trophy – “I have already scored in many finals but this one meant a lot to me because I promised myself I would score a goal in this final […] People always expect more from foreign players” he stated.
After a notorious season in Fiji, Dennis Ifunaoa was deservedly called up for Solomon Islands National Football team, scoring five goals in five matches so far. Despite living a good moment in his career he assures that the best is yet to come “I am so happy to join the National Team and I hope they can call me up again. I think it is not the best moment of my career yet. I still need to improve a lot, that is how I see“. When asked about the recent successes of Solomon Islands in Futsal, Beach Soccer and Football, he answered “It is because the trainings and hard work that each player and staff put day in day out. That is the reason of these recent successes […] I think they should build some good training places and good facilities so players can use it and improve more“.
Infrastructure is clearly one of the biggest problems at the islands but it demands some time to be solved. However there are some issues that can be solved in easier ways like the strange calendars of football in some countries. Recently Oceania Football Center released an article talking about the bad schedule in Fijian tournaments. Ifunaoa played a year in Fiji and he could feel it himself “I think it is wrong playing day-by-day games because human body needs to rest before playing another match […] but it is always like that in Fiji when it comes to tournaments” he said.
Currently playing for Solomon Warriors in Telekom S-League, Ifunaoa has plans for the upcoming years but he is totally focused on his current team goals by now “I intend to return to Fiji. I have just arrived in Solomon Warriors and I will stay here if we go through Oceania Champions League”. He also knows that he still has some potential to improve and make the next level by going into a bigger league “I also would like to play in a bigger country like New Zealand again. I played for Nelson Suburbs in the beginning of this decade”.
Solomon Warriors is currently leading the Telekom S-League and they will probably qualify for Oceania Champions League. If it really happens everyone will have the opportunity to see Ifunaoa playing at the highest level of Oceanian football once again.