Korman Stadium welcomed the first kick of the OFC Champions League 2018 Group Stage, but there was also some other significant activity at the Port Vila venue on the opening match day.
Prior to the first match getting underway a group of kids from Mele and Erakor villages were the first to test the pitch conditions with a Just Play Festival.
Vanuatu Just Play trainer Benjamin Noel said the opportunity to take to the field ahead of some of the region’s top footballers was an honour for the kids.
“You could see it in their face and in their reaction,” he said.
“It’s a new environment for them and they’ve enjoyed every moment of the programme we executed right up to the end.”
Noel is not wrong about how much the kids enjoyed the festival and the OFC Just Play Programme in general.
Molly, 11, said the morning activities at Korman were very enjoyable.
“I like football. I like Just Play because it makes me have fun,” she said.
“I learn to eat healthy food because it makes you strong. My friends, I must respect them, and respect my family – my dad and my mother – and my teachers.”
For 15-year-old Matilda the football aspect of Just Play is what she enjoys most.
“I like playing with boys and girls together because they unite us and I like to show the boys my techniques, how good I am,” she said.
“My favourite is just getting out on the field together. I’ve made new friends at Just Play and with the social messages I now live healthier than I did before I started Just Play.”
The programme uses football as a development tool to share social messages of healthy eating, exercise, respect and being inclusive of everyone.
Ryan, 10, said he’s been involved in the programme since he was six years old, and even four years later he still enjoys taking part.
“I enjoy learning about respect, how to eat healthy food all the time and how to play,” he said.
“To respect, we don’t have to fight, we don’t have to swear.”
Ryan explained one of his favourite activities for learning about healthy eating.
“They do a call and when you score a point in the healthy food goal, you get two points. When you score in the junk food goal, it’s only one point.
“I like how Just Play has healthy messages and also football.”
The OFC Just Play Festival was held at Korman Stadium on the opening day of Group A of the OFC Champions League 2018.