A TRIBUTE TO KALMAN KIRI

By Henry Tavoa
CEO - VASANOC

Kalman had been in the Executive of the New Hebrides Football League, the Port Vila Football League and the New Hebrides Territorial Olympic Committee since the early 70's.
And when the colonial sports administrators left after Independence, the mantle fell on none other Kalman Kiri.
When Kalman took over the leadership of the newly renamed Vanuatu Football Federation in 1980, little did he know that he was also taking over the leadership of Vanuatu sports in general. This was so because Football was not only the most popular sport in the country, but also because it was a leader of all sports Federations of Vanuatu.
This had been evident from the time of Mr.Remy Delaveuve, who was not only President of the New Hebrides Football League (equivalent of VFF), but he also the President of the New Hebrides Territorial Olympic Committee (equivalent of today's VASANOC).
Both the NHFL and NHTOC were under the French Football Federation and French National Olympic Committee at that time. When Kalman came into this leadership position, the level of Vanuatu Sports had dropped to it's lowest point because of the withdrawal of French assistance and support.
Therefore, Kalman had to start from scratch. The commitment he had to Football extended beyond Football itself and other sports so much so that when he leant that for VFF to gain FIFA recognition, it had gain NOC recognition, he saw the need and acted at once - Vanuatu needed to have a National Olympic Committee!.
Kalman then took the lead in reestablishing ties with the International Olympic Committee and in 1987, he succeeded in pushing through Vanuatu's application for IOC recognition. He also became the first President of Vanuatu NOC and hosted the visit of the then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch to Vanuatu, that same year. He then successfully pushed through VFF's application for membership to Vanuatu's NOC, becoming one of the first NFs to be affiliated to the Vanuatu National Olympic Committee.
Kalman then proceeded to submit VFF's application to FIFA and in the FIFA Congress of 2 July 1988, he proudly carried the Vanuatu Flag pole high and place it with the flags of the other FIFA members symbolizing Vanuatu's entrance into the international football scene.
One action that still stands as an _expression of devotion to the cause for Sports Development was Kalman's defiant stand against the Vanuatu Government's appeal to Vanuatu NOC to boycott the 1987 South Pacific Games in Noumea. Kalman lead the only sports and football team to these Games and marked Vanuatu participation with the now famous "Rebel Team".
The VFF Flag still carries the mark of this stand - Yellow/Gold & Black colours - because they were ordered by the then Government of the day NOT to fly the Vanuatu Flag!
When the Vanuatu NOC joined with the Vanuatu Amateur Sports Association in 1991,forming VASANOC, Kalman was voted in as Vice-President.
He has held onto this post humbly, willingly and actively until his passing on today.
Football of course remained his greatest passion.
Kalman was everything that one could be in Football. He was a footballer, a referee, an administrator and a leader.
He was President of Ifira Football Club and lead them to several PVFL Champions making them one of the most revered clubs in the Port Vila Football League in the early eighties. He was President of VFF when Vanuatu won it's first regional competition in the Melanesian Cup in 1990. An achievement that marked a turning point in the history of Vanuatu sports. He is perhaps the only man to have held the Presidency of a Club, a League and a Federation at the same time, when he was President of Ifira BB, President of PVFL and President of VFF. It was under his leadership that Vanuatu hosted New Zeland in the nation's first-ever senior World Cup match on home soil in 1992.
Also under his leadership Vanuatu hosted Melanesian Cup that same year. When the PVFL became separated from the VFF in 1993, he took charge of the Federation and left the PVFL to his other colleagues.
As VASANOC Vice-President, he was a staunch supporter of Vanuatu's suceesful Bid to host the 19993 South Pacific Mini-Games and played a key role as Tournament Director of the Football Competition of these Games. He willingly stepped down as President of VFF in 1994 and his appointment as Honorary President of VFF was unanimously approved by the VFF Assembly of that year.
Before his stepping down, Kalman had successfully bid for Vanuatu to host in 1995 it's first ever Oceania Competition - the U17 Oceania Championships. He has held this post of Honorary VFF President with the same passion that he held the post of VFF President.
Kalman Kiri was behind the organizing of the South Pacific/VFF Junior Championships since 1996. This tournament has contributed immensly to the development of youth football in the country as it has given them an opportunity to play against the likes of Australia and New Zealand teams. Most of the players in our National Youth Teams have been graduates of these Championships. His personality has earned him the affectionate title of "KK" by those who knew him in football. He has represented Vanuatu on numerous international and regional sports meetings. His last regional meeting was at the SPGC Meeting in Suva in 2002.
Kalman has been part of Team Vanuatu to a number of SPGs. The last one being the 2003 SPG in Fiji.
The VASANOC Office has been receiving condolence messages from all over the region. Namely,from the Oceania National Olympic Committee (ONOC), the National Olympic Committee's of New Zealand,Papua New Guinea,Guam, Nauru and Samoa, so far.
ONOC's Dennis Miller had this to say, "Kalman was a great supporter of sport, particularly Football, in Vanuatu and the Oceania Region. He played a major role in the successful delivery of the 1993 South Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu and was a popular figure at regional and sub regional sports events"
New Zealand's Barry Maister said, "I well appreciate the huge impact on the NOC and the potential loss of stability it creates"
PNG's Sir John Dawanicura shared these about Kalman, "Those we love don't go away, They walk beside us everyday, Tears in our hearts we wipe away,
But the love in our hearts will always stay"
Guam's Ric Blas, former President of South Pacific Games Council, said, "What a great loss to Vanuatu and our region".
Nauru's Vinson Detenamu had this to say about Kalman,
"Kalman was a great man known for his leadership and wisdom. His contribution to sport and his country has been one of great importance.Indeed our lives are richer for having known him".
This is an evidence of Kalman Kiri's influence and relationships throughout the region which is why it is only fitting that VASANOC salutes him as the Man Who Revived Vanuatu Sports After Independence and Placed Vanuatu In The International Sports Scene! He was a true "volunteer" in the service of Vanuatu sports!
VASANOC also acknowledge the support and assistance shown to Kalman Kiri that enabled him to serve Vanuatu in the unique way that he did, especially to his Wife, Mrs.Agnes Kiri and Family.


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