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Vanuatu imports star in Australia

PORT VILA: The Vanuatu Football Federation announced earlier this month that two of their star senior national reps had secured contracts to play for the Mitchelton Soccer Club in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia.

Strikers Richard Iwai and Etienne Mermer were announced as the lucky recipients. Iwai was a star back in the 2000 OFC Nations Cup, named the player of the tournament and featuring highly in the OFC Player of the Year voting. Mermer is a national team stalwart and played key roles at the South Pacific Games last year and also the 2002 OFC Nations Cup.

Since their departure two weeks ago, they have made an immediate impact at the club and have featured prominently both in the goalscoring department and improving the play of those around them.

The VFF last year secured a temporary contract for another senior national rep, Seimata Chilia, who played a season with the Fawkner Blues in the Victorian State Federation premier league.

Last year also, the Southampton Club invited Vanuatu’s promising youngster Jean Emmanuel Victor Maleb for a trial. However his age (17) and nationality made it difficult for him to gain a transfer. But as he continues to astound football lovers – most recently as the top individual goalscorer (7) at the 2004 OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifiers – more offers are bound to come.

The VFF talent pool is growing and overseas exposure is seen as the key to rounding out the development of the elite players. That lack of experience at playing top level football on a consistent basis has perhaps cost them in crucial internationals in the past but is a reality that all island teams face.

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