The 2019 edition of International Youth Day was commemorated in Vanuatu with an international friendly match between the U-19 women’s team from Vanuatu and their U-16 counterparts from Australia.
The Junior Matildas are currently touring the Pacific, their first stop-over was Tonga, as part of the Australian Government Pacific Step-Up initiative in collaboration with Football Federation Australia and marks the first tour by an Australian team since 2005.
For the Vanuatu U-19 women’s team, who are in the thick of their preparations for the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2019 which will take place in the Cook Islands at the end of the month, the friendly match came at the right time.
Although their opponents dominated the match, it was a good opportunity to get a competitive match in their legs ahead of the competition.
“With their qualification tournament coming up in OFC, it is very important that they got a really good game. There’s certainly opportunities there for their coach to expand on for future games,” Australia U-16 women’s coach Rae Dower.
The Junior Matilda’s are preparing for next month’s AFC U-16 Women’s Championship, which also serves as a qualifier for the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in India next year.
“We’ve had a couple of games in quick succession now and it’s very important that we utilise this opportunity to play the ball and to play against such good opposition as the Vanuatu girls,” Downer concluded.
Last week the Australians were in Tonga where they ran joint training sessions and played a game against the Tonga U-19 women’s team who they beat 6-0. They beat Vanuatu 13-0 yesterday.
For the last leg of their Pacific Tour the Junior Matildas will travel to Solomon Islands.
The theme for this year’s International Youth Day was “Transforming Education” and aimed to highlight efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth.
For Vanuatu U-19 women’s captain Rita Solomon, International Youth Day and the friendly match were an opportunity to highlight the plight for women’s equality, particularly in women’s football.
“On behalf of us women, there is a more support for men in football compared to women,” Solomon said.
“For example, in Vanuatu we only have men’s league.”
Solomon said it would be good to have support from key stakeholders all year around, so when opportunities like the match against Australia come around, the players are prepared.
“I am calling on our Government and the authorities to please include women in your strategies so we can develop our skills and showcase our talents in games like this one against Australia.”