Vanuatu’s results at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship has surprised few more than the players themselves.
However, with an opening loss to Cook Islands, then victories over Solomon Islands and Fiji, Vanuatu have booked themselves a spot in the semi-finals and a growing belief in themselves.
Vanuatu U-19 captain Rita Solomon stepped into the spotlight after her side were beaten 13-0 by Australia during a pre-competition friendly on home soil in August.
The Vanuatu U-19 women’s captain made a heartfelt plea to football and government authorities not to let this team, or future women’s football teams down by investing before it’s too late.
“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,” Solomon was filmed saying in a post-match interview seen across Oceania.
“There was a video of Vanuatu’s Captain, Rita Solomon, that spread through Facebook,” Ministry of Education Director General Bergmans Iati said.
“We were deeply touched by her words and figured we should do something to support the girls since most of their parents work at the Ministry.”
The Ministry of Education organised a fundraiser which raised almost Vt 100,000 to support the U-19 women’s campaign, and it’s been money well spent by all who contributed as the team now prepares for a semi-final against New Zealand.
“To be honest, we didn’t expect we could win at this competition but we all came and we have a strong mind. We said, if we trust each other, and with teamwork, we can beat the Fijians,” Solomon said following their final group encounter.
“We are looking forward to it,” Solomon said.
“We have heard that New Zealand is a very tough team we know that they are more developed and also that they have a women’s league. But no matter what, we will face New Zealand in the semi-final and we will work hard as always.”
While she herself has had to struggle, Solomon doesn’t want to see others go through the same thing.
“To be honest, most of the girls have been inspired by us, we’ve pushed them to play soccer. Our federation will also see how much we push and how much we perform and I wish that our performance will give them the challenge to start the women’s league again,” she stated.
“For once the girls we feel special that the government has heard our cries and supported us, it pushes us to improve our games and inspires us to play for the competition.
“I want to encourage the girls to never give up, even if the people in government or some other big people in football look down on you, trust in yourself, be confident and trust in yourself that you can do it.”