The European dream of Seiloni Iaruel

Seiloni Iaruel is one of the most important footballers from Vanuatu. Currently playing for Galaxy FC, the 24-year-old goalkeeper started to show his talent when he represented his country in the 2011 OFC U17 Championship when he was just 15.

His incredible quality for a goalkeeper from a Pacific Island’s country really impressed and he made his debut for the National Football Team at senior level when he was just 17. He was called-up to represent his country at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup held in Solomon Islands. Iaruel played only one match in the tournament – the 5-0 win against Samoa.

While he was making his debut for the National Team, an European club was already watching him closely. Earlier this year Iaruel was part of Vanuatu U23 squad that played the OFC Olympic Qualifier held in New Zealand. The Ni-Van side spent a while in Australia training and playing some friendly matches before departing to New Zealand. The goalkeeper had great performances in these matches which put him on the radar “The last friendly match in Australia, I only played the first half and had to leave with Stoke City representative to go to another stadium for a test,” he said in a talk show back in 2012.

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Seiloni Iaruel profile

Iaruel called the attention of Stoke City from England

Andrew Parkes was the one who discovered Iaruel for European football. The Stoke City’s agent in Australia also expressed his optimism about taking the Ni-Vanuatu goalkeeper for a trial in England – “I am personally very excited for him and do hope he makes us all very proud,” he told to Vanuatu Football Federation’s media.

Iaruel left his country on August 2. After flying to Australia and Singapore, he finally arrived in Europe to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer. He was received there by Stoke City FC Academy Recruitment Manager Kevin Scott and David Jarvies – “We are very happy to have a player from the Pacific Islands […] He can play in Europe if he do well in his trial with our goalkeeper coach,” said Scott.

Iaruel arrived in England in August 2012 for trials.

He had the opportunity to train and play with the U18 squad of Stoke City. His first challenge was a friendly match against Brentford Youth Team. The Ni-Van goalkeeper had a good performance and helped his side to win by 4-1 – “I enjoyed my first game with Stoke and I think I made some good saves […] I am so glad to be here on trial, it’s a great club and the staff, coaches, volunteers and fans are great. They have made me feel at home even though I am far away from Vanuatu,” he said after the match.

Iaruel really impressed in this match and he was offered an extension to his trial period which meant that he remained in the English club for one more month – “We are happy to have a Pacific Island boy with us and if he works hard enough we will decide if we can sign him,” revealed Kevin Scott.

Iaruel playing against Brentford

Unfortunately Iaruel did not have the opportunity to sign a contract with the English club and he returned to his country. However he surely became a better player after his stint in England as he had the opportunity to have access to good facilities and good staff – “He did really well. He was great size and very athletic goalkeeper […] A player with great attitude and very hard working,” said Kevin Scott to Oceania Football Center. Scott left Stoke City a couple of years ago. He currently works as an independent fit all consultant with clubs from the whole world.

Since then, Iaruel stayed in Vanuatu representing local clubs. He played for Tafea and Amicale and now he is the starting goalkeeper of Galaxy. Despite playing at his homeland, he keeps the good level as one of the top keepers from his country. His last official appearence was a couple of months ago in the 2020 OFC Champions League before the football activities in Oceania have been suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Iaruel was Galaxy’s captain in 2020 OFC Champions League

Iaruel stayed away from the Vanuatu national team from 2016 to 2019. Last year he was called up for a friendly match against Solomon Islands in March. However, he must be included in the upcoming call-up if he keeps his level when football resumes.

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