The Vanuatu U-20 national team were thrown straight back into the limelight when they touched down in Vanuatu following their exit from the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, receiving a heroes’ welcome from thousands of football fans at Independence Park in Port Vila on Sunday afternoon.
Although Vanuatu lost all three of their matches in the group stage of the competition, their narrow 3-2 losses to Mexico and Germany captured global attention.
After witnessing the talent and raw passion of the team in Korea Republic first-hand, Vanuatu Football Federation President Lambert Maltock shared his pride for the young Vanuatu representatives with the 3000-strong crowd.
“When Bong and Ronaldo scored, I saw the German coach and management teams’ hearts sink until the final minute when they scored. Germany celebrated as if they had won a grand final,” Maltock said.
Speaking at the welcoming event on behalf of the squad, coach Dejan Gluscevic said he believed his side performed above and beyond expectations and was proud they were able to achieve the objectives they had set for themselves.
“We did what we went there to do,” he said.
“As their teacher, I am happy that my students passed their exams.”
Gluscevic also acknowledged that Vanuatu was under-estimated by the world but have proved that their determination and passion for the game can outweigh the disadvantage of having a small, isolated population.
“The media around the world keeps on talking about the population of 250,000 in Vanuatu, but in football only 11 people play.”
With Vanuatu on the world map thanks to the valiant efforts of their U-20 national team, future football development in the Melanesian country is looking more hopeful than ever.