New deal could see more Oceania football teams play Asian sides

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have signed an agreement they say will see more matches between the two continents.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in Bahrain during the Asian body's annual congress.

Oceania President Lambert Maltock said the agreement is hugely significant and beneficial for football in the Pacific. 

"We are pleased that the implementation of this agreement means a focus on high level competitions between representative teams from both confederations," Maltock said.

A joint statement said the MoU would result in "high-level competition" for men's and women's teams and the exchanging of knowledge, experience and resources.

The statement does not say whether the new competitions would be for clubs or national teams. Both continents have their own men's Champions League competitions.

An OFC spokesperson said the MoU opens up the possibility of the OFC Champions playing in the Asian equivalent competition; and vice-versa, the top Asian side playing in the OFC competition.

The spokesperson also said it could result in more pan-continental matches, for example, New Caledonia or Solomon Islands playing against China, to test them against higher-ranked and more experienced national sides.

It would not mean, however, that the respective World Cup qualifying competitions would be merged.

AFC President Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa said both organisations share similar challenges as well as common interests and he was "confident the exchange of best practices will provide fresh impetus to take the beautiful game to even greater heights."

There are 11 national football associations in the OFC and two associate members, and 47 in the AFC.

At the 2022 men's World Cup, Asia was represented by hosts Qatar and five qualifying nations; Oceania's top team New Zealand fell to Costa Rica in the Intercontinental Playoff.

The top-ranked Asian nation is at Japan at 20, followed by Iran (24) and South Korea (25). New Zealand is the best-ranked Oceania side at 105 with Solomon Islands at 136.