A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat Acting Director General George Hoa’au and the President of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Lambert Maltock to establish a mutually cooperative relationship between the two organisations, in promoting and developing football and futsal in Melanesia.

The MoU’s objectives include a long-term legacy plan in which prior to the opening of the competition, a forum will take place for coaches and game officials regarding training and development, and experience sharing on the basis of mutual respect; it will also establish terms and conditions concerning the agreement in developing and strengthening the level of football within Melanesia.

According to the MoU, the Secretariat will, among other things, prepare a programme of the tournament/competition in consultation with OFC, which will be hosted by a MSG member on a rotational basis, for the MSG Prime Ministers Cup and Melanesian Games.

The signing ceremony that was held last week was history in the making and took place at the Northern Town Provincial Headquarters with the presence of the Honourable Minister for Youth Development and Sports Willie Pakoa Satearoto, Sanma Provincial President Malmal Langi Touve, the Lord Mayor of Luganville Peter Pati, Police Commander of Northern Town Willie Samuel, the Principal Education Officer Thomson Paul, Secretary General of Vanuatu Football Federation (VFF) Albert Manaroto, as well as senior government officials and prominent business representatives.

Positive reactions

Satearoto expressed his appreciation to the two organisations, the MSG Secretariat and OFC, for coming to this agreement.

“Sports is everybody’s business, a healthy nation is a nation with healthy citizens and a healthy nation is a nation that has youths that have respect and responsibility in them,” he said.

Maltock said he was elated and the agreement was a dream come true.

“I started this discussion even before I became President of the OFC but I was determined to see it come to fruition during my four-year term,” he said.

“I am proud that the MSG Secretariat has taken a strong move to ensure our football is elevated to another level and our agenda behind this MoU is to ensure that two MSG member countries or one must qualify to take part in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

Hoa’au acknowledged Satearoto and said his presence signified the Government’s unwavering support towards sports development in Vanuatu and throughout Melanesia.

“This MoU is a milestone for us in Melanesia because I understand that this tournament will be a Tier 1 event, a level recognised by FIFA which will leverage football in Melanesia,” he said.

Looking ahead

Hoa’au confirmed that negotiations around future tournaments would begin when borders have reopened following the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will start the dialogue with the proposed host on a way forward and a date to be confirmed for the revival of the tournament, however at this stage we are yet to follow suit with the advice given from OFC.”

Hoa’au said the sports programme was not a new one at the Secretariat, but it would be realigned to a stand-alone programme with a new officer, while there was the opportunity for further expansion in the future.

Within the Secretariat, there’s a number constituent bodies and the MSG Sports Committee, which meets once or twice a year, decides on sports programmes and activities that are eventually discussed at the Ministerial level.

Last September, the inaugural MSG Sports Ministers meeting was held in Port Vila, which endorsed the revival of the Melanesian Football Cup and the name was changed to the MSG Prime Ministers Cup.

The signing of the MoU concluded efforts by the MSG Secretariat’s Sports Development Officer Henry Bill, who completed a successful round of consultation in 2019 through all MSG members from Vanuatu to New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

During this consultation period all national federations agreed to the initiative and proposed that the MSG Secretariat take the lead in dialogue with FIFA through OFC in the future.

Courtesy of Vanuatu Football Federation.