Vanuatu Cricket celebrated two important milestones, the 30th anniversary of Stafford as the President of the VCA, and 20 years of the VCA’s cricket development programs at a fire and ice themed gala night at the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu earlier this month.
Three decades ago in 1991, Mark Stafford became the president of what was then the Port Vila Cricket Association and developed it into the Vanuatu Cricket Association (VCA). The VCA then became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1995, and later an Associate Member in 2009 after satisfying several specific requirements, that included defeating a Top 20 ranked country which was achieved by defeating Fiji. In 2001, the VCA’s cricket development program began with 400 participants and one full time staff in Port Vila.
Now 2021, the VCA has grown in leaps and bounds and boasts a total of 40 staff, four sub locations for cricket development outside of Port Vila (Santo, Malekula, Tanna and North Efate), over 25,000 participants around Vanuatu and is home to the two highest ranked national sport teams globally across all sport in the country.
Vanuatu Cricket CEO, Tim Cutler, who joined the VCA just over four months ago, conveyed his delight to join the Vanuatu cricket family at such an important time and said “Despite the uncertainty around world travel and international competitions, frankly, it’s an exciting time for Vanuatu cricket.”
“It is 20 years since our multi award winning cricket development programs began, but also the two-decade anniversary of the service of Pierre Chilia, who was the first employee of the VCA, charged with leading those community programs, and remains as General Manager of Development to this day.
“However, none of this would have been possible without what happened ten years earlier, when the VCA was established by Mark Stafford who began, and remains as President.
Cutler continued to congratulate Stafford and praise his passion and hard work by quoting Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, and former Pakistan men’s cricket captain.
“Former Pakistan men’s captain and now Prime Minister of his country Imran Khan said “Compromise for your dream, but never compromise on your dream” and I think that rings true for why we are celebrating not only the uncompromising pursuit to benefit the Vanuatu community through the growth of cricket, but the milestone of Mark, who can only be described as the father, perhaps grandfather now, of cricket in modern Vanuatu,” Cutler said.
Still the President of the VCA 30 years on, Mark Stafford was humble in stating that as much as he was passionate about cricket and using cricket to make a difference in communities, he never expected the VCA to be where it is now, a position he is proud of.
“I cannot say that I thought that our organization, which consisted of a handful of volunteers and 8 men’s teams playing on Saturday afternoons, would have evolved to what it is now.
“We now have 40 staff, 25,000 participants throughout the country, global rankings of 29 for Men and 28 for Women, great social impact, inclusion and community programs in five locations around the country and much more. We have a Pacific Games Gold Medal; we compete at global events that could one day lead to World Cup appearances, and we have a great bunch of people who are and want to be associated with our sport. Our reputation for achievement across so many levels is unparalleled in Vanuatu sport.
“Our global reputation is as good as any country in the sport of cricket. It would have to be a bit of a stretch to say that I imagined all of that as I was talking and thinking about the future when I was standing around at Amini Park with a cold SP Draught in my hand in 1991,” he said.
Vanuatu Cricket now has the highest ranked national sport teams in Vanuatu for both men and women, and Stafford is proud to credit that to the success of the cricket development programs at the national level for the last 20 years under the leadership of Pierre Chilia.
“I am extremely proud and pleased about all the fantastic positive achievements that the VCA has put together over the past 30 years. Without a doubt the crowning achievement is the success of the Cricket Development Program.
“One just has to think about how many other organizations in Vanuatu, and regionally, have copied or taken inspiration from our actions and our initiatives. A great example is our Women’s Island Cricket Program, which really introduced the unsung heroes of our country, “the mamas”, into a structured opportunity to improve the overall health of their communities whilst at the same time giving them a chance to get together and have fun in an altogether healthy way.
“The other shining light has been our desire and ability to insinuate cricket into an informal curriculum in our primary schools, in particular. This started in 2001 and continues strongly to this day. We have provided a platform for others to follow, and I am so pleased that our kids of today have many choices of sports to try and to enjoy.
“To top it off many of those kids that have been involved in our Development Program have now had the opportunity to represent Vanuatu on the global stage as part of the Vanuatu National Men’s, Women’s, and Under 19 teams. I know that our programs have helped those national players, and many more, to be better people.”
He then concluded by expressing his hope for the VCA for the next 30 years.
“It is my personal hope that we see more people get interested in developing our sport of cricket across our country. Without a doubt it is the quality of the administrators and volunteers across the teaching, coaching, umpiring and many other areas that will help maintain the strength of the VCA.
“I hope that our government supports us further with the development of good cricket facilities in every province and every town in Vanuatu.
“I hope that we see one or more teams from Vanuatu grace the fields of Cricket World Cups. Most of all I hope that the kids of Vanuatu continue to enjoy their involvement in our game at whatever level they can,” Stafford concluded.
VCA Fire & Ice gala photos.