David Chilia knows a thing or two about football in Vanuatu, so when the veteran international goalkeeper says nephew Seule Soromon and his young sidekick Francois Sakama are the future of football in his country, you pay attention.
Chilia's international career stretches back over ten years, and there is not much the shot-stopper has not seen. His fondest memory is that famous 4-2 win over New Zealand in the OFC's last FIFA World Cup™ qualifying tournament in Australia three years ago, and now he is hoping that his team-mates can make their own piece of history at the XIII South Pacific Games Samoa 2007.
"I come from the village of Mele and in the squad we have six players from there and five of us are related - there is me, Seule, brothers Ken and Fenedy Masauvakalo and Chikau Mansale," explains Chilia. "It is no surprise that in this team we have a strong sense of brotherhood and purpose about what we are in Samoa to achieve."
But Chilia is aware that the spectre of that victory may prove to be a millestone rather than an inspiration to this young Vanuatu team. "This result was great for our nation but now we must remember that this is a different Vanuatu now, in a different time and place. But if we play to our best, in football, anything can happen," Chilia said.
So far, so good, then, for Vanuatu who sealed qualification for the semi-finals of Samoa 2007 courtesy of a 4-1 win over Tonga, which included a hat-trick from Soromon, who leads the scoring charts on ten strikes from matches.
"David is my uncle and he is always there for guidance, but so are the rest of this team," the quietly spoken Soromon says, "we all look up to him because he has done so much for the country and the game and we all respect him."
Soromon has gone on a goal-scoring spree at this competition,
putting Cook Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga under his dizzying spell.
When asked about how he has been the most prolific striker at the
tournament, he quietly looks to elder statesman Chilia for help in
answering. Chilia nods and says, "Tell them how it must feel,
Seule, to score the goals for Vanuatu."
Chilia then realises that Soromon is too modest to blow his own trumpet and takes up the explanation on his modest nephew's behalf. "Our team and our family are very proud of Seule. He plays for Suva in the Fiji domestic competition and you see he has pace and determination. Players like him and Francois Sakama are key to Vanuatu's future," he declares.
Chilia is no longer first choice keeper for his country - that honour falls to his younger cousin Chikau Mansale - but the experienced custodian says time and family ties make it impossible to hold grudges. "No, Chikau is a very good goalkeeper and from time to time I will give him advice if he needs it. He is the future of this country, for me, after this campaign I will concentrate on playing well for Tafea FC in the OFC O-League and in the club competition back home," Chilia adds.
Chilia believes his team have to focus solely on overcoming their next opponents Fiji, not the fact that coach Juan Carlos Buzzetti has changed camps. "(New coach) Robert Calvo has done a good job with us, but we know how good Carlos is. I do not think there is any chance Vanuatu will lose focus for this game because the prize is too big to worry about such matters."
With the South Pacific Games medal chase reaching its peak, Chilia is quick to add that qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup is definitely at the back of everyone's mind.