Following a five year hiatus, Vanuatu’s beach soccer programme has made a triumphant return at its new home at Port Vila’s Korman stadium this week.
The future has never looked brighter for the popular sand-based game following the establishment of the first ever permanent pitch in the country’s history.
With the OFC Beach Soccer Championship just three months away, the new home provides a timely boost to the Vanuatu team’s preparations to take on Tahiti, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Tonga for the qualifying spot at FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019.
But it also heralds the arrival of host of new grassroots and youth beach soccer activities.
The launch of Vanuatu’s new beach soccer programme and the inauguration of the pitch have coincided with the OFC Champions League 2019 – Group C tournament to add to the hive of football activities around Korman Stadium.
Riding the wave of excitement across the football mad Pacific nation, Vanuatu Football Federation Development Officer Joel Rarua couldn’t hide his excitement about the prospects of beach soccer.
“I truly believe that with the support of OFC we can implement a programme that will bring back the popularity of beach soccer in Vanuatu,” he said.
“My main objective will be to make sure that everybody here knows about this programme and we give everyone who is interested an opportunity to participate.
“To have this base here which we can call home is absolutely vital for us in order to popularise the game,” said Rarua.
OFC Beach Soccer Development Officer Paul Toohey has been working closely with the VFF and the Vanuatu Sports Commission to secure this important piece of infrastructure which he believes is one of the main building blocks on the road to rejuvenate the country’s beach soccer scene at grassroots, youth as well as senior level.
“This wonderful former beach volleyball pitch is the magic piece of real estate that we have been looking for and I can’t emphasise how fantastic the local Sports Commission has been with their support to make it available for us.
“The key for us now is to ensure that we have regular activities for everyone who wants to participate in the sport,” he said.
With June’s OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup in Tahiti fast approaching, Toohey believes the timing could not be any better to breath new life into the sport.
“It’s a great sport with a proud tradition here in Vanuatu.
“It’ a big boost for people who enjoy to be part of the game to build from this and dream about going to the World Cup,” the OFC Beach Soccer Development Officer explained.
“I think the Vanuatu national team can be competitive in Tahiti, we have time but the important thing is to get going right away, we are coming up to March now so we have about three months.
“It will be important to get some people involved with experience from previous campaigns who could combine with talented footballers who perhaps are new to the game, but we know the characteristics and qualities of Vanuatu players and for sure they can mount a serious challenge in Tahiti,” Toohey added.
Knowing the potential of beach soccer, Joel Rarua insists his team at the Vanuatu Football Federation will leave no stones unturned to usher in a new dawn for the game in the country.
“We want to have a strong grassroots programme and a strong national team to participate and be competitive in OFC beach soccer competitions,” he said.
“So straight away we will be focussing on our youth programme for under 12 and under 14 teams on Saturdays.
“We will also introduce a beach soccer league and teams in Port Vila have already signalled their interest to participate so hopefully by the time the OFC Beach Soccer competition in Tahiti comes around we will have big pool of players to select a competitive national team from,” Rarua enthused.