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Vanuatu chasing U-17 success

National U-17 head coach Etienne Mermer has been working with players at the VFF Teouma Academy since last year with the goal of dominating the OFC U-17 Championship which will be held in their backyard of Santo in April next year.
The winner of regional event then goes on to claim Oceania’s spot in the FIFA tournament.
While a daunting task for most for the young coach, also acting manager of the academy, it is a chance to give back to the youth in his native country.
Currently participating in the first ever OFC B Licence coaching course being held at OFC Academy in Auckland, Mermer says getting the players to a standard where they can compete against the likes of New Zealand and Tahiti is becoming easier with time.
“I started with my boys last year and it is already much easier to work with them because they have improved their basic technique,” Mermer says.
“Back in the islands most of the boys don’t even have a ball to kick around, whereas at the Academy we are training regularly and they are constantly building their technical skills.”
While the language barrier has at times proven problematic during the course, it run by OFC head of coach education Didier Chambaron and UEFA technical instructor and English FA coach education manager Steve Rutter, Mermer says he has adapted in order to get the most out of.
“Staff at the Vanuatu federation have never been involved in a course quite like this before,” he says.
“It’s a good chance to get something for our football back home that will improve our players and coaches. I believe it will do good things for us because we are young and need more experience.
“With Didier and the others believing in us it makes it seem even more possible that we can do something better for our country.”
He says everything he has learnt so far has built on his previous knowledge of the game and coaching – and then some.
“In the beginning it was difficult for me because being a former player and then going on to coach is totally different. You have to start with the basics and build from there.
“Through the courses being offered by OFC – the D Licence, C Licence and now B Licence – we can see how we need to change things in order to be successful.
“For example, with my own coaching pathway, I can see what I need to do with my boys, the weaknesses of the team and the players and how to improve them.”
Mermer says his preparations for April include preparing his players both mentally and physically.
“The tournament is at home in Vanuatu so we will have the home crowd advantage and we will use that in our preparations.
“If we have a match against New Zealand at midday for example, we will train at midday in order to be ready. We need to be prepared for the exact conditions we will face during the tournament and with it being at home we can easily do that.”
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