Dreams do come true

By Tony Ligo

Etienne Mermer and Richard Iwai shared the same dream,to play overseas one day, for the same club, as team mates.

Like many athletes, they often shared and discussed their dream. Particularly, when touring abroad with the senior national soccer team. "We would often talk about and imagine a club selecting us to play for them," revealed Richard Iwai. Yes, their dream is already a reality. The boys are in Australia to play football. They will be playing alongside each other at Mitchelton Football Club in Queensland.

Announcing their transfer to the Brisbane football
club, VFF Technical Director, Carlos Buzzetti, said the boys are ready, having gone through rigorous fitness training. He explained that the Brisbane based Mitchelton Football club, is an 82 year old club. They (Richard and Etienne) are in professional hands under the best management team that represents a positive step forward for the boys.

According to Carlos, the boys will also be used as
ambassadors to encourage indigenous young people in the club to strive to reach higher levels. They are seen as an inspiration for young indigenous players.

The boy's mentor, Tafea Football Club manager, Robert Calvo, says he is satisfied, after visiting Mitchelton FC premises in Australia. "The boys will be well treated and looked after whilst down under. They have 3 coaches, including the head coach who is the former Australian women's coach Craig Brown, a Brazilian coach and the third coach is a former Australian national player.

Calvo also commented about the club's facilities which include 4 fields with lighting in a 5 hectare property in Brisbane. "I am sure the boys will be treated well, as their accommodation, and expenses are all taken care of under their signed contract, including a package for their service to the club. But money aside we are talking about a different level or standard of football, a different way of life, which should also be healthy for the two boys," he added.

Etienne and Richard will participate in coaching
courses to help them develop the other side of their interest in soccer. Both VFF and Tafea FC hope the boys make good use of their time to pick up much needed skills in coaching. "When they return we can use them at both club and national level to help with youth development programs," said Robert.

Reflecting on the player's potential, VFF president Johnny Tensly Lulu said he believed the two boys have a big future ahead. "I believe they will either be asked to remain with the same club for an extension of their contract, or be picked up by other clubs over there.

Lulu went on to say that in the next 2-3 years,
Vanuatu will see around 20 players exported to
different clubs not only in the region but further
abroad, even as far as Europe. To support this, Carlos Buzzetti confirmed that more national leagues are starting to recognise Vanuatu football players. He named New Zealand as a potential export target for more Vanuatu players, but would not go into detail at this stage.

Etienne and Richard expressed their gratitude to
Robert Calvo for his commitment and for going out of his way socially and financially to make them get where they are. A word of thanks from the two also went to Carlos Buzzetti, their national coach, for his input into their transfer and development.

The VFF head reminded the boys they are in Australia as ambassadors of the sport and must do their best for all other players in the country and all supporters, family and friends. Particularly for those who love the sport.

When questioned about the space left by the boys in Tafea football club, Robert Calvo replied that
replacements will be named but not just yet. He
admitted that Richard and Etienne will be missed, but stressed that in football it is normal for players to move on or retire and get replaced. It is also understood that whilst under contract to Mitchelton FC, Richard and Etienne may be called up to play for the Vanuatu senior soccer squad. VFF will be able to call upon the two boys as stated in their contract to defend their national colour.

Looking back at their history, Etienne and Richard
share an impressive list of achievements.

In 1993 the two young players represented Vanuatu for the first time, as members of the national under 17 team that toured Solomon Islands.

In 1996 they became team mates, as forwards for Tafea Football club. They continued to play for Tafea FC up until this week, after their transfer to Mitchelton Football club in Australia. Both players have represented Vanuatu in various levels since 1993. They both played for the under 17, under 20, under 23 and the senior national soccer squad. Etienne Mermer played a total of 43 games for the Vanuatu national soccer team. Richard Iwai also represented Vanuatu 43 times as a national soccer player.

For Etienne Mermer there is no regret about putting aside his career as a teacher to pursue his dream and love for football. And as they take in their first impression of Australia, one thing is sure, their dream has come true. There is a lot of sweat, dedication, discipline and strife to make it happen. Etienne made 43 appearances for Vanuatu as a member of the national squad, including becoming a 2003 Bronze medallist at the South Pacific Games.He scored the only goal in their match against Tahiti to earn Vanuatu the Bronze medal.

For Richard it has been a hard earned road; top
striker for the under 17, under 20, under 23, senior squad. He had the highest goal scoring match average and was top striker in the premier championship for 8 straight years from 1996-2003. He was named the 2001 OFC Club championship top scorer. Richard received the 2001 OFC player of the year award-for 3rd best player.
He was also a member of the Vanuatu soccer squad to bring home the 2003 SPG bronze medal.

When you dream, strive to achieve it, always believe in yourself and your goal, and yes, it will come true," the young men say. For Richard and Etienne it is real, they are in Australia as football players. Dreams do come true.


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