Dutch support Tuvalu

The story behind Dutch Support Tuvalu reads as a boys’ book. It all started with the dream of initiator Paul Driessen. Until this moment the highlight was contracting Foppe. But where will the story end?

Paul Driessen (1982) loves football, the Pacific and undertaking things. He has been dreaming about combining these three ‘loves’ for a while, to do something good for a football country far away. Paul did not just dream. He did it.

Why Tuvalu?

The story of David and Goliath appeals to him. It is in Paul’s nature to support the underdog and, being a VVV Venlo fan, he knows better than no other how that feels. Therefore the country he wanted to support had to be a small country, preferably a country where he can make a difference. He took a map of the Pacific and studied all countries in the region. From Fiji to the Cook Islands and from Tokelau to Tuvalu.
He noticed that most countries are a member of FIFA and that these countries receive a substantial subsidy from the international football association, which can run up to hundreds of thousands a year. They can use this money, for example, to lay out fields or to contract permanent employees.

Football is the favourite sport on Tuvalu. It was easy to draw the conclusion: Tuvalu is the ultimate ‘David’.  It is one of the smallest countries in the world, the inhabitants love football and the country turned out to be fighting for years with its own ‘Goliath’, FIFA, hoping to reach a full membership. In July 2009 project Dutch Support Tuvalu was born. Aim of the project: making Tuvalu a member of FIFA.

Member of the association board

The contact with the association was fairly smooth, especially via e-mail, however, in order to let his business plan come to life, a personal meeting with the board was necessary. In the meanwhile, a board change had taken place and Paulson Panapa was appointed new president of the football association. In December 2010, Paul travelled via Hongkong and Fiji to Tuvalu and spoke with Panapa. The new president of the Tuvaluan football association also liked the plans of Paul. Even more, he extended his contract as a board member of the Tuvaluan football association with a portfolio marketing & communication. Rather remarkable: a young man from Eindhoven being a member of a football association on the other end of the world.
In the picture: Takiao Vave II (secretary), Paulson Panapa (president), Paul Driessen (marketing & communication), Soama Tafia (vice-president), Soseala Tinilau (competition affairs)

Publicity in the Netherlands

Paul had plans, he was allowed to execute them, but did not have the money. The idea was to bring in sponsors and contributors in the Netherlands and use those to pay for the plans. When he was searching the web for “Tuvalu” and “football” he found the website of freelance journalist Koen van Santvoord (1970). He turned out to have visited the Pacific Games in 2003, where he wrote a story on Fijian football for football magazine Johan. He had even seen the national team of Tuvalu in action against Kiribati.
It was a lucky match. Koen shared the same passions as Paul: football, the Pacific and undertaking things. And Koen also knows, being a born Willem II fan, what it feels like to support the underdog. Paul included Koen to think about generating publicity. How can we put Tuvalu on the map in the Netherlands? Koen’s analysis was clear: it’s only possible if the project has a clear Dutch component: meaning a national coach! Paul was busy with his contacts overseas. Koen became responsible for the negotiations with the future national coach.

Who will become the coach?

Such as Paul suddenly became a member of the Tuvaluan football association, in the same way Koen was suddenly responsible for contracting the national coach of Tuvalu. This can be called rather remarkable as well.
It became a favourite pastime among friends: who is a suitable coach to lead Tuvalu during the Pacific Games. It had to be an experienced coach who could rapidly bring the players to a higher level. But also a coach who represented the necessary PR-level. Preferably a coach who would be at the end of his career. Otherwise the risk would be too high that the coach would drop out if FC Utrecht, Vitesse or Cambuur would come along. 

Contracting Foppe

In the meanwhile also Serge Rossmeisl (1974) got involved with the project. Serge is president of the FBO (Federation of Professional Football Organisations) and he has excellent contacts in the football world. He brought Koen in contact with Gerard Marsman, president of interest union Coaches Betaald Voetbal (Coaches Professional Football).
Koen travelled to Zwolle and philosophized on the project with Gerard and CBV office manager Petra Balster. Marsman, being a former coach himself, crossed off about half of the names on Koen’s list. He knows his fellow craftsmen and knows who is and who isn’t suitable for a job in the Pacific. Soon the name Foppe de Haan came up for discussion. “He has the ability to connect with anybody within a day”, said Marsman. “Foppe is genuinely interested in the players, he wants to improve them. And he can do that.” On top of that, Foppe has a broad view of the world; he enjoys exploring the world. Someone who doesn’t like adventure, shouldn’t be on Tuvalu.
Marsman got in touch. Several days later Koen got a phone call from South-Africa. Foppe was interested. Many e-mails and phone calls followed and on 9 May the news came: Foppe will do it!
In the picture: Koen van Santvoord and Gerard Marsman with a picture of the Tuvaluan national footballteam

Historical moment in the Tuvaluan football history

The contracting of Foppe can be called a historical moment in the history of Tuvaluan football, maybe even a historical moment in the history of the whole country. Tuvalu never had the means to contract a good coach from the outside, nor did they have the contacts to do so. The last few years the local gym teacher was also the national coach. Paul saw him at work during his stay on Tuvalu and wasn’t impressed. The pace of the training was low and they hardly got any directed practice.
When the news of Foppe reached Tuvalu, the reaction was widespread disbelief. “Unbelievable” and “magnificent” were the words of president Paulson. “It is great to have someone with great calibre and success such as Mr. Foppe de Haan. He is well respected. No doubt Tuvalu will benefit a great deal from him!”

How to continue?

Primary target is to make Tuvalu a member of FIFA. For this, it is important to have a solid organisation: there have to be good supplies, the competitions have to be well set up and women’s football has to be stimulated. In order to do so, a Dutch trainer will be working on Tuvalu even after the Pacific Games. The idea is to fill this position during a year or a year and a half, with trainers who alternate each other every 5 or 6 months. Money is obviously needed for this. The foundation Dutch Support Tuvalu tries to collect his budget through sponsors and contributors. If everything goes according to plan, Tuvalu will submit an application with FIFA within two years.

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