The OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2019 in New Caledonia was an emotional occasion for Vanuatu’s most capped player Ben Hungai, as he was carried off the court on the shoulders of his teammates following his final international match of an impressive playing career.
It was a fitting tribute and farewell to one of Oceania’s greatest futsal players, who signed off in style by adding another goal to his overall tally in his side’s 6-4 loss to Fiji in the fifth-place playoff.
Not even that defeat could take the shine off Hungai’s achievements and contribution to the game in both his country and across our region.
And the former Vanuatu captain is adamant his futsal journey is far from over.
“It was very difficult to make my decision to retire from the national team,” he said.
“It was an emotional moment because I had a fantastic career full of experiences, exposure and achievements allowing me to become the most capped player in the Vanuatu national side with the most goals scored.
“However, it was also the right time, it wasn’t the end but a new beginning and the start of new chapter for me.
“Following the message of my spiritual father: ‘Don’t RETIRE but REFIRE’, I became determined to contribute to my country’s futsal development as an educator.
Just a couple of months after his retirement, Hungai travelled to the inaugural OFC Futsal Nations Cup in Auckland to be part of an OFC Futsal Study Group and Futsal Coach Educator course which ran simultaneously with the tournament.
Since then he has conducted coaching courses in Vanuatu and participated in an OFC Futsal C Licence online workshop run by former Solomon Islands and New Caledonia national coach and OFC’s Futsal Coach Educator Juliano Schmeling.
“I think it is very important to me to stay involved and connected to the game which is my passion,” Hungai said.
“Futsal has transformed my life completely, it helped me to become a role model and a disciplined person.
“I’m now determined to share my experiences, to pass on my knowledge and inspire others to get involved in this game.
“My great hope and vision is to bring futsal to every corner of Vanuatu and Oceania, to every school and every remote island, I’m determined to educate and develop our great game in the Pacific.”
OFC Acting Head of Football Development Paul Toohey said Ben Hungai was a huge asset for futsal in Oceania.
“Ben was a fantastic player and a leader on the court and now it’s great to see him continue to inspire those around him off the court,” Toohey said.
“As part of the OFC Futsal Coach Educator team he has recently been mentoring the coaches in Vanuatu who are trying to gain their OFC Futsal C Licence.
“This is important work because all over Oceania we are trying to improve the futsal environment and lift the standard of coaching and level of competition in our leagues.
“Having someone of Ben’s stature as part of the group is fantastic, because he brings with him a lot of playing experience, knowledge and ideas.”