A string of 81 islands situated 540 kilometres north east of New Caledonia, in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu is one of the football world’s most remote outposts. Yet, that does not mean to say that its 200,000 inhabitants are any less passionate about the game than the rest of the planet. Proof of that came only last week, when the country hosted a four-day FIFA seminar on youth football.
The seminar formed part of FIFA’s Com-Unity programme, and sought to provide stakeholders in local football with just some of the key resources needed to speed the development of youth football in Vanuatu. In attendance were all the members of the Vanuatu Football Association (VFF), as well as local government officials, reporters, business leaders, NGO representatives and several members of the country’s footballing community.
The FIFA team was headed by Glenn Turner, FIFA Development Manager for Oceania, with FIFA Instructor and Technical Director of the Oceania Football Confederation Patrick Jacquemet lending his support. Chris Collie of Canada presented marketing aspects, while Olivier Huc of Tahiti was in charge of the communication component of the seminar.
“This seminar has brought together all Vanuatu’s social stakeholders: government officials and representatives from non-governmental organisations, as well as partners and sponsors, the media and the nation’s entire football family,” said a delighted Jacquemet.
The 80 participants listened to presentations and formed working groups with a view to analysing, modifying and improving on actions already put in place. The discussions generated a number of ideas for continuing the development of youth football in Vanuatu.
“These three days have allowed people to get together, exchange information and get to know each other better, all around the key central theme of young people,” added Jacquemet. “I think that everyone agreed that football is a powerful means of bringing youngsters together and educating them.”
The fourth and final day of the seminar was spent on the ground, with participants decamping to the VFF’s academy in Port Vila, which was built in 2001 thanks to the Goal I Project. Over 100 children turned up for a morning of sport at the academy, with Jacquemet setting up eight different areas hosting matches, training exercises and plenty of fun and games. The first of its kind to be held in Vanuatu, the sports initiative was run by local trainers and youth workers.
“Like all children around the world, these youngsters need to play and they need trainers and instructors to coach them and help them fulfil themselves,” continued Jacquemet. “When you have 110 children aged between six and 12, 40 of whom are young girls, and they have the support of volunteers and players from the national team, then you can honestly say that the potential is there. It’s our role as representatives of FIFA and the OFC to keep giving them support by training youngsters and providing equipment etc.”