With the OFC Champions League 2023 kicking off in Vanuatu this weekend, we round-up our profiles of the eight teams competing, finishing off with a focus on the host nation side, Ifira Black Bird FC. Photo Credit: Port Vila Football Association
Ifira Blackbird Football Club (IBBFC) was established in 1918 during the colonial times in Vanuatu. Since its establishment, it has been an active club in Port Vila until today. IBBFC has won the Vanuatu Football Federation (VFF) Champions in 2015, 2018 and 2022, though this will be its first appearance in the OFC Champions League.
The club is originated from the Island of Ifira, located in Port Vila City and has established itself as a community-based club.
IBBFC has produced some of Vanuatu’s best players throughout its journey and still contributes to the Vanuatu men’s national team, with nine players selected for the most recent Vanuatu squad.
How Ifira Blackbird FC qualified for the OFC Champions League 2023.
There was no shortage of motivation for the players of both Siaraga FC and Ifira Blackbird FC when they met over two legs in the National Play-off, to decide the host nation’s representative for the OFC Champions League 2023.
Ifira Black Bird took a commanding lead in the tie, following a 3-0 victory in the away leg – held at VFF Freshwater Stadium – thanks to goals from Kerry Iawak, Alphonse Lency and Tonly Kalotang.
The return fixture in Luganville was a tighter affair, with Ifira securing their place in the tournament with a 1-0 win, the sole strike coming from Godine Tenene in just the second minute. Ifira Blackbird qualified for the OFC Champions League on home soil 4-0 on aggregate.
Coaches hopes for the tournament: Jean Robert Yelou
“We are the champions of Vanuatu and all of our friends and family are looking forward to the competition. However, as Head Coach of Ifira Black Bird FC, I say that ‘all teams are champions’ and we cannot say that we will win but we can say we will compete.
We have the advantage of being the host and we will play the game and learn a lot from it. All the teams competing are champions and we are looking forward to the tournament.”
Billed as Ifira Black Bird’s ‘defensive wall’, Timothy Loic Messeck Boulet will provide the foundation for which the host nation side will hope to build their campaign on.
The 25-year-old has a wealth of experience – having established himself as a key player for the Vanuatu national team – and was integral to Ifira Black Birds’ National play-off success over Siaraga FC in February.