Football in Vanuatu has received a major fillip with an upgrade of the Sokka City Stadium in Luganville, Santo Province.
Sokka City Stadium played host to the OFC U-17 Championship two years ago and attracted average crowds of 6,000.
FIFA Development Officer Glenn Turner outlined the vision for the Northern region of Vanuatu’s football community.
‘’It has always been envisaged to do a 2nd stage under Goal Project 5 which would develop the facilities to become the regional development centre for the Northern region group of islands,” Turner says.
Formerly known as the Chapuis Stadium, Sokka City Stadium’s original edifice was built by the French Government.
Capable of holding up to 12,000 fans, the recent work included the development of an improved playing surface and changing rooms with increased office space.
‘’One of the challenges for Vanuatu was always the lack of infrastructure. Historically, only the men’s teams had access to the pitches and it was difficult for the kids and the women to access them.
‘’Now we can see women’s and grassroots football is developing positively in Vanuatu mainly because the infrastructures have been improved. This means a lot to FIFA,’’ explains Turner.
Youth players from the Northern group of islands will be selected to attend local schools near the upgraded facility with an eye to joining the VFF’s player pathway.
Candidates will be selected at the age of 14 to come to Santo and will graduate to the National Football Academy at the age of 16-17 to prepare for the U-17 programme.
North region VFF Development Officer Kaison Maki is delighted to see the new project coming to Santo.
‘’Everyone is happy about the development of football in the Northern region and mainly the five local Member Associations.
‘’On behalf of the Northern region I would like to thank Vanuatu Football Federation, the OFC and FIFA for providing the project to our door step,” he says.
More upgrades to the playing facilities are also planned.
This includes additional changing rooms for players and match officials and an education centre for teaching VFF, OFC and FIFA courses.
The potential impact in the Northern region is significant.
‘’The OFC Technical Program, in collaboration with the FIFA educational courses and the FIFA funding for women’s football and grassroots development, has given us great results in Vanuatu over the last 4-5 years,” Turner says.
A further upgrade to render the playing surface suitable for hosting international matches for the Vanuatu senior national team is also planned.
This project is in accordance with the vision Vanuatu Football Federation President Lambert Maltock.
Maltock’s aim is to spread the sport’s activity evenly throughout the Vanuatu football community away from its traditional Port Vila base.