Ex-Linfield star Munster aiming to become World Cup manager with Vanuatu

Paul Munster
Munster was greeted by members of the Vanuatu Football Federation when he arrived in the country

His career has never followed a traditional path - and now ex-Linfield striker Paul Munster has swapped India for the Pacific Islands as he continues his global football odyssey.

The 37-year-old from Belfast, whose playing and coaching career has included spells in Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Germany, has been appointed the national team manager of Vanuatu.

Currently 163rd in the Fifa world rankings and with a population of roughly 276,000 - almost 4,000 less than that of their new manager's home city - it's perhaps unsurprising that Vanuatu was not previously on Munster's managerial radar.

"To be honest, I had to do a search on Google to find out exactly where the country is," Munster admits.

"But when I saw the job was available and did some research, I really liked the look of it. There were over 180 applicants for the position and I had to do two Skype interviews with the Vanuatu Football Federation, who are very ambitious.

"They have given me a totally free rein to do the job my own way and, as I'm also in charge of the under-23 and under-20 teams, I can really put my own stamp on things."

Qatar 2022 World Cup the main aim

Paul Munster
Munster describes taking the Vanuatu job as "an opportunity, not a risk"

Munster took the Vanuatu job soon after resigning as head coach and technical director of Indian top-flight club Minerva Punjab FC, where he won two trophies during seven months in charge.

He has wasted little time in getting to work on researching players and is very clear about the key targets in his new role.

"I see this as a three-year project with the biggest aim being qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar," the former Slavia Prague forward explained.

"It's something the country has never done before so I realise the size of the task, but other smaller countries have done it so you have to believe it can happen.

"I want to increase our Fifa ranking to 150 or higher and, in the shorter term, we have the Nations Cup to look forward to after a few friendlies in June. Our under-23s will also have the qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics starting soon.

"I've watched lots of videos to assess the squad and we have some decent players. Eight or nine of the panel play outside Vanuatu, in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, while I also plan to introduce a few new faces."

Two flights and a 9,000-mile trip to new 'home'

Munster won two league and cup doubles during his three seasons as a Linfield player
Munster won two league and cup doubles during his three seasons as a Linfield player

After resigning from Minerva Punjab in February, Munster had returned to live in Sweden - where he had been a player and coach - and it was from here that he made the 9,000-mile journey to the South Pacific.

He is unfazed by the travelling and has found it easier to settle in his new surroundings than he did in India, where his dislike of spicy food was a major challenge.

"I think once you've lived in India, you can live anywhere," Munster said.

"My girlfriend and I are living in a lovely villa with a pool, which is just a five-minute walk from the national stadium in Port Vila. The weather is great and I've already had lots of friends getting in contact asking if they can come and stay with us.

"I've never been afraid to take on new challenges, such as this one. I see them as an opportunity rather than a risk and, when you consider I'm an international manager at the age of 37, that's not too bad at all."

While he is a long way from home, Munster aims to instil what he describes as a "Northern Ireland mentality" into his new players.

"Developing an 'us against the world' ethos has helped the Northern Ireland team punch above their weight, and that's what I want to do with Vanuatu."

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