18 Nov 2022

Aussie team coach looking for new Pacific stars on Vanuatu visit

9:00 am on 18 November 2022
Vanuatu celebrate qualifying for the 2017 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Korea.

The talent is there: Vanuatu qualified for the 2017 U-20 World Cup where they pushed both Germany and Mexico hard Photo: OFC via Phototek

An Australian team will make history by becoming the first A-League football side to visit Vanuatu for a tournament, as the club's manager urges the league to relax its quota system to allow more Pacific footballers to play at the highest regional level.

The Central Coast Mariners men's team have arrived in Port Vila to take part in the Friendship Cup.

While there, coaches will also look out for any prospective stars.

They will play the Vanuatu national team, a Vanuatu development team and current Port Vila champions Ifira Black Bird over the next week.

That means a return to Vanuatu for national team captain Brian Kaltak.

"With Brian at the Mariners it was an opportunity to bring the team here, bring Brian back and the fans can obviously celebrate him," said Mariners head coach Nick Montgomery.

"Brian's journey is a special one. I find it hard to believe that nobody picked him up from his time in New Zealand as he is an unbelievable athlete, and he learns so quickly. I think everyone has seen in the early rounds of the A-League that he is a big talent.

"I am just humbled that I have been the one to give him his opportunity in professional football. He is a real pioneer for football in Vanuatu," Montgomery told OFC Media.

Mariners coach Nick Montgomery

Mariners coach Nick Montgomery Photo: Central Coast Mariners

The talent is out there

As a footballer from the Pacific playing in the A-League 29-year-old Kaltak is a rarity, with former Wellington Phoenix striker Roy Krishna the other high-profile example. Solomon Islanders Henry Fa'arodo and Benjamin Totori have both also played in the league, albeit briefly.

The A-League's transfer system is set up to protect the development of domestic players, with only five foreign 'visa players' allowed to be registered to a club at any one time. It means players from the Pacific have a tough task in getting opportunities to break through into the competition.

Montgomery believes there are opportunities for more talented players from the region to play professional football in Australia and New Zealand.

"It would be an amazing thing to have a plus one quota player from Oceania. I know there is talk about Asia as well, but I don't see why there can't be one from Oceania when you have places like Fiji and players like Roy Krishna and obviously Brian now from Vanuatu," he told OFC Media.

"That's a pathway that would be welcomed. At the moment it is very hard, you only have five visa spots at every A-League club so to try and give up visa spots is not easy, but I think Brian can be an inspiration for that as was Roy Krishna.

"Look, there are good players out here they just need the platform and opportunity to perform at the highest level and that's always the challenge."

Montgomery and the Mariners staff will keep their eyes peeled for the next Brian Kaltak during this tour.

"We have got three games which give us an opportunity to look at players," said Montgormery.

"No doubt every single player sees Brian as an inspiration, that it is possible to come from Vanuatu and play in the A-League which is a top league and a very good standard. So, he's a special boy and inspirational to every young kid in Vanuatu and throughout the Pacific Islands."

The Central Coast Mariners are currently fifth in this year's A-League which is now on an enforced break with the World Cup about to get underway in Qatar.

The tournament gives the Mariners, who have three players in Qatar as part of the Australian squad, a chance to keep sharp over the break period with 21 players, including some youngsters who are looking to impress, making the journey.

Kaltak is currently starring in the FIFA documentary Captains: The Chosen Few about the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign alongside Luka Modric and Thiago Silva.

Brian Kaltak ex-Vanuatu captain now in the Mariners A-League.

Photo: glenn pokorny