Vanuatu has one of the most advanced technical programmes in Oceania, particularly at youth level.
The Melanesian nation of around 290,000 inhabitants was previously chosen as one of six countries globally for a FIFA pilot project whereby players were identified at a young age and selected to train and stay full-time at the national academy.
As part of that two-year programme for players aged 15-17, consideration was given to continuing school or vocational education.
The main objective, however, was to facilitate national team players’ entry into professional football.
These activities made full use of the infrastructure of the technical centre in Teouma, Port Vila, built with funding from the FIFA Goal Programme.
The success of the project, which started in 2008, led to Vanuatu being nominated to represent Oceania at the first ever Youth Olympic Games in 2010.
Under the leadership of President Lambert Maltock, Vanuatu Football Federation (VFF) has continued to work hard to establish the academy and national headquarters in Teouma, as well as the decentralisation of football activities which led to the establishment of the regional technical centre in Luganville, Santo.
Maltock has served as the VFF President since 2008 and was re-elected for a fourth term in late 2019.
The experienced football administrator is the President of OFC having being elected to the post officially in 2019 after serving in an acting role for a year prior. Maltock is also a member of the FIFA Council.
In addition to the 11-a-side game, VFF have long focused on developing beach soccer and futsal which has resulted in strong performances at OFC tournaments.
As a football-devoted nation, it was only a matter of time before Vanuatu qualified for a FIFA event, after close shaves at the men’s OFC U-16 Championship, OFC U-19 Championship, and on the club scene when Amicale finished runners-up at the OFC Champions League in 2014.
In 2016, the nation finally achieved that long-awaited dream when they finished runners-up to New Zealand at the OFC U-19 Championship on home soil, securing tickets to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2017.
Having got a taste of the game on the global scale, the emerging football nation’s players will be eager for more in the future.