The coach who led the New Zealand side to the Under 17 World Cup never suspected any of his players were ineligible but admitted that he didn't have a full understanding of the Fifa regulations.

Yesterday the Herald revealed the Oceania Football Confederation are investigating a claim the Young All Whites used ineligible players to win their World Cup qualifying tournament in American Samoa in January.

Head coach Jose Figueira and assistant coach Paul Temple were controversially sacked following the qualifying tournament, despite the Young All Whites winning all seven of their matches in trying conditions. The sacking had nothing to do with any eligibility problems.

Figueira said that when news of the Oly Whites forfeiture from the Olympic qualifying tournament broke he had no immediate fears about the under-17's eligibility, but began to have doubts as the story started to grow.


"I started to think about some of the boys who were involved during my time who were born outside of New Zealand," said Figueira.

"From a coaches point of view, my role as an under 17 coach was to work on the grass and develop a plan and a programme. But as far as all the rules and regulations, I will hold my hand up and say that as a coach I, for one, didn't know the exact details - and the ins and outs of what is appearing to be quite an in-depth enquiry."

Figueira said any eligibility queries were worked through a chain of command, and that his involvement was minimal.

"As head coach, I would report to New Zealand Football with regards to anything around team functionality, selecting players, organising camps, travel and things like that.

"As a coach, I'm observing, monitoring and scouting players to bring into the programme. Once those players were found it was passed onto the team manager and the high performance team to make sure they ticked all the boxes.

"Based on my experience, I understood that if the players were in the country for a certain amount of time and had a New Zealand passport then they were OK to represent the country."

Age group manager roles with New Zealand Football are part time positions that pay around $500 a month, despite extensive time commitments.

Three New Zealand players who took part in the OFC Under 17 Championship were born in the UK and one in Papua New Guinea. Without Kiwi ancestry, these players are ineligible under Fifa's rules - unless New Zealand Football applied for individual exemptions.


"There were other players early on in the piece who I was monitoring and observing - and it was communicated to us that they were ineligible to play because they failed to meet certain criteria.

"If these players are proved ineligible to represent New Zealand they will be absolutely devastated. Amongst the hours and weeks and commitment they have gone through - having the chance to represent your country at a World Cup is a dream come true, and a lot of boys will now be sitting waiting to see how the cards fall."