FRIDAY was a great day for beach volleyball in Port Vila, as Vanuatu’s leading female players took on one of Australia’s top pairs in an exhibition game which thrilled the crowd at the beach volleyball home courts.
The event was organised by the Japanese JHK TV documentary makers who are following the journey of the Vanuatu women all the way to Tokyo 2020.
The battle on the sand was tightly fought and at one-set-all the gathered crowd of local fans were in full voice supporting Linline Matauatu and Loti Joe.
Joining the onlookers were representatives from VASANOC, the Australian High Commission and visiting staff from Volleyball Australia.
The music boomed out across the courts when the teams paused for a drinks break on what was developing into a warm day.
The Australian pair of Justine and Jordon Mowen eventually took the final set, sealing a two-sets-to-one victory.
But the overall winner on the day was undoubtedly the sport of volleyball.
The four women had put on a wonderful display of skill and athleticism which excited the fans and inspired the many children who had gathered on the grass to watch.
When all the excitement around the players and the event died down what remained was perhaps the most inspiring sight of the day. The children had raided the VVF ball cupboard and swarmed onto the courts.
Vanuatu Women’s Volleyball manager, Debbie Masauvakalo, said the benefit of an event like this one is all about what happened after the match.
“The big benefit is that the kids get empowered by seeing their role models play and (then) they look forward to many years of playing beach volleyball,” she said.
“Beach volleyball is a growing sport and is getting more and more popular.”
Masauvakalo spoke proudly of the sport’s development program which runs weekly.
“We have our after schools program every Friday (and) we have over 100 kids from 10 years of age to 17 years of age and it’s growing every week,” she said.
“We also have the program in Santo starting up, so it’s expanding to the islands.”
The Vanuatu players have never played competitively at home, never playing in front of family and friends. So this day gave them just a taste of the atmosphere which will surround them in December at the 2017 Pacific mini-Games.
“A lot of people haven’t seen the girls play so it’s the first time for them, and a lot of their families haven’t seen them play either,” said Masauvakalo.
“They don’t know how good the girls are, so when they see them play it really opens their eyes to see that they are really good.
“So I think the benefits are that we’re getting exposure in Vanuatu rather than overseas – we’re building it up in the country.”
SOURCE: THE VANUATU INDEPENDENT