History of Guam Football Association
Associate Member: Asian Football Confederation (AFC), 1991
Membership: Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), 1996
Age Groups: U6, U8, U10, U12, U14, U17, open, and Masters
Number of Players: Youth – est. 3,500, Adults – est. 1,000
The Guam Football (Soccer) Association was founded in 1975 by a group of men who were looking to establish recreational football in Guam. A few years later, military leagues sprang up for youth teams, and a youth division of the Guam Football Association began to emerge.
Communications began with the international federations and eventually, Guam became and associate member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1991. Guam worked hard to develop its association, and in 1996, was recommended to full membership in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). At the FIFA Congress in Zurich in 1996, Guam was voted in as a member of FIFA, therefore, attaining full membership in the Asian Football Confederation.
For many years, and since its induction as an associate member in the Asian Football Confederation, Guam has participated in U14 festivals and tournaments, U16 tournaments, U19 tournaments, the Women’s Asian Championships, Challenge Cup Qualifying Events, World Cup Qualifying Events, and Club Championships. Guam also participated in the East Asian Games, which are held every four years. As the sport of futsal began to gain popularity, Guam also has organized national futsal teams to compete in international tournaments.
Guam Football Association has adopted the "Fifth Element Project 2022," a 10-year football development plan that outlines the necessary areas of improvement for Guam to effectively become the fifth-ranked FIFA member nation in East Asia, not only in terms of national team ranking, but across the board, including coaching, officiating, youth, and political development. Guam has made considerable strides toward achieving the 10-year goal quicker than anticipated.
Guam, an island in the western Pacific with a total mass of 212 square miles and a population of approximately 180,000, Guam has had varied success in its international endeavors before 2012. The Guam national teams have consistently shown improvement, and have not been discouraged by the football strength of the island’s regional neighbors. It is understood that in order to move to the next level, regular international competition is necessary.
To assist with development of Guam’s national teams to prepare for regular international competitions, Guam Football Association has forged relationships with regional neighbors for foreign coaches. A great deal of assistance is provided by FIFA and AFC in that regard, with a number of seminars and training sessions for all involved. Currently, the Guam national program is steered by technical director Gary J. White, who holds The FA Elite Coaches Pro License and a UEFA “A” License and is originally from England. White previously was at the helm of the British Virgin Islands national team and the Bahamas national team. He also served as technical director for Washington State Youth Soccer and was a development consultant for the Seattle Sounders organization, a professional club in the MLS.
Additionally, to continually develop and groom elite athletes, White created the Guam Football Association National Academy in 2012. The Guam Football Association National Academy identifies elite youth athletes and places them in elite environments with licensed coaches for additional training. Youth athletes in the U8 to U12 age range try out annually for spots in the academy. After graduation from the academy, the best athletes matriculate into the U14 national program up to the U19 national program. After moving through the national program, some may receive a call-up to the senior men’s team (the Matao) or the senior women’s team (the Masakåda).
Another necessity in being able to move forward is finances. Although football is not as expensive a sport as some, in order to maintain the Guam Football Association, and the number of teams that participate at the international level, significant finances are necessary. The greatest financial burden involves the cost of travel throughout the Pacific region for the Pacific Games and mini Pacific Games, as well as to Asia for the various competitions involved. In the Asian Region, Guam teams have participated in the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Iran, and Nepal, among other countries. In the Pacific Region, Guam teams have participated in Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Palau.
Locally, there is a significant amount of soccer being played. There is a men’s league structured similarly to the English Premier League – overlapping the calendar year and featuring a promotion/relegation system for Division I and Division II. The league also features a Masters Division for players 40 years old and older. During the the season, teams elect to compete for the coveted Guam FA Cup, an open, single-elimination tournament spanning the weeks of the league, featuring teams from all divisions of the men’s league. There are currently 22 teams that make up the men’s league.
Men’s teams also participate in GFA’s Beach Soccer League in the summer, as well as a Futsal League, usually scheduled after the conclusion of the Beach Soccer League.
Women’s teams compete in three different leagues in one calendar year. They normally play an 11-A-Side season in the spring and fall, and a Futsal League during the summer. There are currently seven women’s teams playing in the top women's league. In 2013, a recreational GFA Soccer Moms League was created for teams with novice and intermediate level players who are mothers looking to try the sport and later, the GFA Women’s Intermediate 7-A-Side Recreational League was developed for mid-level female players. The Soccer Moms League and the Intermediate League more than doubled the number of registered female players at GFA. The Soccer Moms League, in particular, started with eight teams and has grown to feature close to 20 teams in just a little over a year.
Six divisions comprise the GFA Youth league – U6, U8, U10, U12, U14 and U17. Youth leagues are held twice yearly – a spring season from February to April and a fall season from September to November. Particularly for the teams in the U6, U8, and U10 divisions, a jamboree is held at the conclusion of each youth league season.
Close to 150 teams from 13 clubs participate in the youth leagues. On average, about 1,500 youth athletes participate in the youth league each season. Clubs are generally geographically based, but do not have official districts. Club coaches are mostly voluntary, but are committed to their respective teams. In order to assist with grassroots development, Guam Football Association regularly holds a GFA “E” Coaching Certificate course and a GFA “D” Coaching License course for club coaches. Introduced in 2016 is the Club + Player Development Program, which features Guam national licensed coaches to assist with youth club training sessions.
The sport of football has been growing very quickly on Guam and Guam Football Association is taking major steps to increase not only participation, but also the quality of the players, coaches, officials, and administrators. Guam Football Association consistently coordinates FIFA and AFC courses in coaching and officiating for the local football community. Additionally, these high-level courses have attracted participants from the region to register.
Other areas of expansion include Guam Football Association’s training center and programs to boost elite players and coaches. A renewed focus on sustainability also is at the forefront of Guam Football Association’s expansion. Two full-size artificial turf pitches, as well as an artificial turf mini-pitch, help Guam Football Association realize thousands of dollars in savings with the systematic reduction of water consumption. Additionally, Guam Football Association has engaged in operating a solar energy farm to help conserve natural resources used to generate electricity. In November 2015, GFA officially updated the facility's futsal courts with turf through the AFC Mini Pitch program.
Aside from athletic endeavors, Guam Football Association has consistently found ways to move ahead politically with the appointments of several members to posts in FIFA, AFC and the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF). Guam Football Association has been identified as a model organization globally for its commitment to fast-track growth and development in football and overall increased popularity of the sport in Guam.