New face . . . Waitaki and South Canterbury football development officer Luis Paiva is relishing the move from Southland to Oamaru. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Luis Paiva did not have much of a choice when it came to liking football.

“I’m from Portugal. That means [whether] you like it or not – you have to put up with it,” he joked.

Luckily for him it became his passion and he has now started as Football South’s development officer for Waitaki and South Canterbury.

Paiva started playing football at a young age in Portugal, and started coaching when he was at university.

“That’s how I think I got that passion, and once I started, I don’t think I ever stopped.”

He moved to New Zealand in 2015.

After spending six years in a similar role in Southland, Paiva started his new position last month and splits his time between Oamaru and Timaru.

While South Canterbury had a bigger football competition, he saw an opportunity to expand football throughout Waitaki, especially for players aged 4 to 12.

“That’s the structure that’s already set up in the region. Hopefully by doing a good job here, opening more opportunities, and improving the quality of those experiences to the participants will give the kids more interest [in] the game, and then that will obviously make things easier and better for the grades above.

“There’s a strong drop off about 15 to 16-years-old across the country, and I strongly believe that’s about the quality of the experience you provide.”

He wanted to provide more help for coaches, assist volunteers and run workshops in the community.

Last week, Football South hosted a “Have A Go, Girls Only” football celebration, and nearly 60 players attended.

“It’s trying to . . . get the girls into it in a girls-only environment which, from the social point of view, is quite different. It was good to see the girls, and some of them had never played, but they all had a lot of fun and that’s what is most important.”

It had been a good and challenging first month in the role, and he was starting to develop relationships in the community, which he believed was one of the most important parts of the job.

“It’s been really positive,” Paiva said.

“People have been really, really welcoming.”