The Vanuatu Hockey Federation has been recognised internationally for their overwhelming development and growth over the past 5 years.

It was announced last week at the 2014 Congress Awards, held by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) that Vanuatu was the winner of the Etienne Glichitch Award. This award has been presented to the Federation for being the fastest growing sport in the small nation of Vanuatu, as identified by their Olympic Committee.

“This award is a great honour’, noted VHF President Relive Poilapa, ‘it recognizes the fantastic improvements and development of the VHF, and puts us up there as the fastest growing hockey federation in the world!”

The Vanuatu Hockey Federation has achieved a great deal in the past 2-3 years. The VHF has developed both on a local and regional level, developing all areas of the sport from community outreach and grassroots, through to international competition. In the past 2 years alone the VHF has worked at a grassroots level, introducing hockey into numerous new communities and schools in particular around North Efate, developing local leagues, and running coaching and umpire trainings.

Additionally the Federation has worked to develop the national standard, sending a national women’s teams to their first ever international competition, defeating PNG for the bronze medal in the Junior World Cup Qualifiers in Gold Coast and introducing player scholarships for athletes to compete in Australian leagues.

In addition to all this, in 2013 the federation, in partnership with Wan Smolbag Youth Centre built a world class standard Hockey5s field, which resulted in Port Vila being selected as the host city for the 2014 Youth Olympic Qualifiers, seeing teams from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji coming to compete in Vanuatu’s first ever Official Olympic event!

However despite this fantastic list of developments, and exciting recognition through the FIH award, the VHF is still faced with many challenges. Just days after the international award was announced, the VHF was forced to make the tough call to withdraw the National Men’s team participation in the upcoming Oceania Cup. This decision is unfortunately based solely on lack of funding.

“Unfortunately, hosting the Youth Olympics put great financial strain on the VHF. For the event to fulfil requirements we needed to call on all our annual sponsors,” noted national coach Peter Robinson.

“This has left us with basically no funds to cover this upcoming event. We have done our best to fundraise, and players were asked to raise 30,000VT each for their flights, but unfortunately we just could not get the funds we needed. It is greatly disappointing as the boys have been training hard for 4 months, and after defeating Fiji in the Youth Olympic Qualifiers, we were ready to go for gold.” Robinson adds.

“As recipients of this international award, it is with tragic irony that just as we are recognized for our rapid development, we are forced to put those progressions on hold simply due to finance,” remarked Development Officer Ashton Kealy; “Sport is such an important aspect of life. Opening pathways for youth to compete for their country is a great way to provide empowerment and confidence – it is much more than just playing a game. It is disappointing when the support isn’t there to help these talented athletes achieve their potential.”

Raymond Nasse

Sports Editor

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