Meet the Banbury coach who is now helping the world’s newest national football team thousands of miles from home

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A Banbury man who became technical director of the world’s newest national football team last year has launched a football school for local children.

Lloyd Owers was as surprised as anyone when he was offered the role of technical director for the football team of the tiny central Pacific country of the Marshall Islands in December 2022.

The job wasn’t straight forward though, because the country – made up of around 60,000 people spread over five islands and 29 atolls – didn’t actually have a stadium, coaches or any players.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lloyd, originally from Essex but has lived in Banbury for the past ten years, has a background in the sport, playing semi-professionally as a youth and more recently offering his expertise at clubs across England.

Lloyd Owers on the left at a Marshall Islands women's training camp.Lloyd Owers on the left at a Marshall Islands women's training camp.
Lloyd Owers on the left at a Marshall Islands women's training camp.

He said: “When I was about 24, I quickly realised that I could coach at a higher level than what I could ever play at.”

This led him into a role as a first-team coach with Chelmsford City, a consultant to teams in Canada and the USA and working for the FA coaching children at clubs around Banbury and west Oxfordshire.

Following this, he then enrolled in a master's degree in coaching while also working with the Oxford United college football team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After completing the masters, Lloyd discovered that he missed writing about football and consequently set up a blog site where he wrote about stories within the sport.

Lloyd Owers hopes to use his coaching expertise to grow footballwith youths in Banbury.Lloyd Owers hopes to use his coaching expertise to grow footballwith youths in Banbury.
Lloyd Owers hopes to use his coaching expertise to grow footballwith youths in Banbury.

Lloyd, 34, said: “I was doing interviews with coaches from around the world and I was writing articles about coaching.

"I ended up interviewing a couple of guys in Samoa who were working with the national side there, as you do! And it became a popular interview, with people taking notice from around the world.”

The success of Lloyd’s blog site drew the attention of the recently formed Marshall Islands Soccer Federation’s (MISF) president, Shem Livai who offered him a job.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lloyd added: “We got talking and the next thing he is asking how I can help them. We put together a plan and I’m now the technical director of the Marshall Islands team.

“We are now in a place where we have taken the country from having zero football to holding regular men’s, women's, and kids’ training sessions, a league, and our first international camp. There has been a lot of progress made in a year.”

Due to the country’s relationship with the USA and the US navy's bases on the islands, the country’s most popular sports are considered to be American imports of basketball, baseball and softball.

Lloyd hopes with the recent progress of football team and popularity of the training sessions that football will become just as popular in the future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking about how the islanders have reacted to his visits and their growing interest in football, Lloyd said: “It was eye-opening in a sense of the cultural differences. The main thing I noticed was that there is a real sense of community in everything they do.

"Even though football is very new over there, they realise the world plays it and they don’t so everyone pulls together. The first ever kids session that we put on, we were expecting maybe five or six kids to show up but we ended up with over 30 kids there.”

The next step for the Marshall Islands Soccer Federation is to gain recognition from one of the confederations that govern football on each continent. Due to the location of the country and its ties with the USA, they have a choice of governing bodies to apply for.

“As we are not part of a confederation, we have to fund everything ourselves through donations and fundraising, but the more we play and are active the more chance we have of getting the funding and the membership of the confederations.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The good thing about the location of the country is that we have juistification to apply for the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), Asian Football Confederation (AFC) or even the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) route.”

Lloyd has just returned from a trip to Springdale, Arkansas which has a population of around 15,000 Marshallese, and hopes to draw in some of the talent from the Marshall Islands diaspora living in the states for the new squad.

“We have managed to find some college-level players in the states that will join up with players that do play on the Marshall Islands itself, which will form the main pool of players in the men’s and women’s teams.

"The good thing about us starting from scratch is that we had to find all the players from scratch as well, but now we have got to the point where we are doing that and we will have both the men’s and women’s team playign fixtures this summer.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now, Lloyd wants to apply some of the coaching skills he has been utilising in his role with the Marshall Islands to training camps for children in the Banbury area with his newly launched Football Pathways programme.

He hopes to roll out numerous holiday camps and courses for boys and girls aged four to 11 at local primary schools.

Lloyd said: “I wanted to implement the same style in terms of growing the game, and I thought if it can be done in a country that started from zero, why can’t we do it here in Banbury?

"Football Pathways are predominantly focused around player development centres based at North Oxfordshire Academy, where we have Monday evening sessions.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lloyd is also running a Easter holdiay’s football camp for primary aged children, which takes place at North Oxfordshire Academy’s sports hall from Tuesday April 2 until Friday 5.

For more information about visit

Related topics: