Paperwork issues still preventing Raphael Lea’i from making his professional debut in Europe

Since Raphael Lea’i signed his first professional contract a lot of excitement had arisen in the Oceania football community – but the Solomon Islander is still to make his full-professional debut as the new player of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s side Velež Mostar. Since Leai’s arrival from Henderson Eels, the Mostar-based side had played three competitive matches in 2023: two for Bosnian Cup and one for the national league.

Recently, Solomon Islands Football Federation announced all the paperwork from Solomon Islands was already in the possesion of the European club. Although it is confirmed all the documentation issued from SIFF is there, the 19-year-old striker still did not manage to feature in none of three games of the club so far. The reason is that Raphael is not fully cleared to play yet as local procedures are being held by Velež staff: “Unfortunately this is a classic proceeding in our country for foreign players, it is taking time a bit, but soon he will be able to play official matches“, said a Velež Mostar representative.

When asked about what sort of process it was necessary to be taken, FK Velež Mostar’s staff member Adnan Dizdarević explained: “First, they need to translate into our language the school diploma and the certificate of impunity that we were waiting for from the Solomon Islands, then a residence permit (visa) is requested, after which they need to go to Belgrade (Serbia) to our embassy to get a B1 visa, after that they need to get a work permit, and everything in the meantime needs to go through the Federation and UEFA to get a clean sheet from the SI Federation“, said Dizdarević – “the club has received all the necessary documents (from Solomon Islands) and is now following the procedure“, he added.

It is expected the proceedings get completed in the following days; Velež will be playing two games in a four-day span starting this Saturday (04th Mar). There are reasonable possibilities the Solomon Islander can be introduced in the squad – if not this Saturday but in the next week’s encounter against local archrivals Zrinjski Mostar on 8th March.

Velež started very well the year; the club won all their three official matches and is still concede a goal. The club is very close to qualify for the Bosnian Cup semifinals as this Wednesday (01st Mar) they won Sloga Doboj by 3-0 in the first leg of one of the quarterfinals. The club is currently ranked 5th in the national league, the M:tel Premijer Liga.


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