SONGS rang out in Port Vila Stadium in the final minutes as Erakor Golden Star FC cruised past Ifira to grab their ticket for their first appearance in Oceania Championship League (OCL) in 2017.
In the end, tears of joy overflowed when the captain bowed down to receive the cup, showing the respect Erakor has towards football in Vanuatu and the other participating teams.
The win also marked the team’s unbeaten run since last season.
The fans filled the stadium to experience the celebration of the win with the players.
Erakor won their first ever ‘Top Four’ title in Port Vila Stadium. Etienne Mermer’s men were able to count on the fans who supported them and believed in the team and a day after winning the title, the fans filled the ground to enjoy the party along with the players.
The cup was presented by the football authorities while the team went out on the pitch to receive their prize and laid their hands, for the first time in history, on the ‘Top Four’ title.
The coaches were followed out by Brian Kaltak, Tony Kaltak, the technical team, before the rest of the team; Bernard Daniel, Jacky Ruben, Nemani Roqara, Jack Wanemut, and others to the front of the crowd before captain Kaltak was handed the cup.
This was followed by the squad lifting the cup into the sky with banners saying ‘Yesu I wi’ and ‘We are the Champions’ playing in the background.
The moment when the players, one by one, thanked the fans with messages from the centre of the field was emotional. This was followed by the players doing a lap of honour around the pitch presenting the trophy to the fans.
The players showed their joy as they shared the moment with their children and the technical team. The event was concluded with a big photo of everyone.
But the celebration did not just end there as the players received a massive welcome in their Erakor Village as the roads were decorated with flowers and leaves as the whole village geared up for celebration.
The village has never felt so joyous like this before and the win brought the whole village together including the elders from Erakor who have been playing football before without winning a tournament.
But Erakor did not take that win easily after beating Ifira Black Bird FC four goals to nil. Tony Kaltak missed another opportunity to make it five when he fired a stormy shot at close range that bounced from the chest of Ifira goalkeeper Antony Taiwia.
Daniel Bernard opened the scoring in the first half before the Jacky Ruben doubled the lead before half time.
In the second half, Ifira came back with a very organised team, with former captain Andrew Chichirua joining the back line to strengthen the defence. But Tony who tried to break on numerous occasions to score another goal to claimed the OCL ticket without dispute but kept on bouncing off the wall.
But he knew what to do. He fired a screamer for 30 metres past Taiwia forced the Stadium to explode once more and the message started calling out from the crowd ‘Tahiti, here we come’.
But from a collective effort from other players, Tony scored another goal later and ran to the supporters where they celebrated it together on the side field.
But the team’s manager Donald Wanemut later revealed the secret of their success since winning the Championship.
Donald has been helping Erakor since 2010 when Erakor were relegated to first division. After the Pacific Games in New Caledonia in 2011, things starting to changed and in 2013, Erakor made their way back to Premier League.
“This year 2016 is Erakor Golden Star FC’s year,” he said.
“My wife and I have been helping our players and we have been praying for their lives that God will touch and change them through football.
“We want them to see and know that football is just a sport but the life we have with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is more important than football.
“I always reminded them that if we put God first, we will see good results even if we play against strong clubs in Port Vila.”
He said that after 2013, the team came up with new football motto; ‘Yesu I wi’ which means ‘God is good’.
He said that Erakor came second in the Premier League three years in row from 2013, 2014 and 2015.
He said that this year the team showed that they do mean business with football when they won the PVFA Premier League competition 2016 and also won the ‘Top Four’ to qualify for OFC Champions League 2017.
“There is no secret if you want to win,” he said.
“We train hard, pray hard and play hard and that’s why we are today champions of Port Vila.”
Earlier, another deciding match between Tafea FC and Amicale FC saw the Roosters manage a close win against the Reds with three goals to two.
Amicale was leading one goal to nil before half time and in the second half, through a free kick from Bong Kalo, Seloni mishandled the ball before Jayon Thomas tapped it in to equalise the score.
But Kency Tangis fired Amicale’s second later to make it two one.
Tafea kept on pushing and saw a corner kick well delivered and Jason found the far post to equalise the score.
Before the end of the game, Tangis fired another goal for Amicale to win it late before the final whistle.
Just after the game Tafea head coach Moise Poida officially announced his resignation as the team’s head coach.
He later posted in his Facebook page that he felt for the club but he has taken his decision after being a member of the club for 22 years now.
Poida said that he was first involved with the team as a player in 1994. He said that he started playing for the club’s U-20 when he was 14. He was promoted to the Premier Division in 1997 when he was 17.
In his career, Poida was in the Tafea team that reached the final of OCL in PNG. The home side beat New Zealand’s Napier City Rovers FC in the semi-final and went down to Australia’s Wollongong Wolves in the grand finale with one goal to nil.
He wore the captain’s cap many times and was in the position until he stepped down as a player in 2010 and focused on his coaching career.
Apart from that Poida made many appearances with the Vanuatu National team.
He said 2016 has marked six years he struggled with the team as a coach.
“By saying all this, today December 16, 2016, I am stepping down in this position inside the team’s technical department to one of the strongest supporter,” he wrote.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who had been walking alongside me until today, I want to thank you all for helping and supporting me since I started playing until coaching life.
“I would like to say that every victory we have been enjoyed so far, the achievements under my leadership and directions as head coach was because of your commitment and sacrifice from you all Tafea fans and players.
“I wouldn’t reached that far without you and because of you, today I am one of the respected person in Vanuatu Football.”
Poida said that even though he is resigning his heart will remain with Tafea forever.
He said that he will never regret his decision because he has given enough, spent enough and achieved enough with the team and it is time to let go and focus in his private life.
He said that he will be ready to give any sponsorship, help, advice to any successor and he is agree to give 50 per cent of his life to the team’s training.
He said that after the game with Amicale even though he lost the game he walked out of the stadium a happy man.
But for the fans, many of them shed tears when he announced his resignation.