It has been 15 months since Vanuatu National Team played their last match: an 11-0 win against Samoa at Pacific Games last year. Since then, football fans have not had the opportunity to see Vanuatu in action.
The 2019 Pacific Games was not very good for Vanuatu. Coached by Paul Munster, they did not advance to the semi-finals of the tournament as they finished third in Group A with seven points in four games – behind New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. However, it was a very special tournament for Mitch Cooper.
Cooper played for Australia at 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup and since then he has never played for a national team. He made his debut for Vanuatu one month before the Pacific Games in a 2-0 win over Tahiti: “It was an unbelievable and surreal experience! That day i will never forget,” he stated.
Although he debuted for Vanuatu last year, his desire to represent the country where he was born started some years earlier: “I saw Vanuatu going to the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup and not just taking part, but making a statement there against Germany and Mexico. That is not an easy thing to do and it made me so proud,” he said.
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The 26-year-old midfielder has a lot of experience compared to his compatriots as he played at Australian A-League for some seasons, and he knows that it is something big for a player born in Vanuatu: “I was not just born in Vanuatu but I was raised there so I understand the magnitude and impact of a footballer playing outside the country could make,” stated Cooper – “I hope our next generation of footballers can see that they can travel the world playing football, that they can become professional players. My dream is to see Vanuatu playing a FIFA World Cup at senior level. Why not?“ he added.
Cooper played six matches for Vanuatu and scored five goals. He was part of the provisional squad for 2020 OFC Nations Cup but the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemics. Anyway, we must see him in the national team for many years if he wants to.