Write an Article

Tahiti amateurs out to tackle world’s best in FIFA Confederations Cup

f

FBL-FRA-OVERSEAS-TAHITI-BRA-CONFED

The amplitude of the task facing Oceanian minnows Tahiti at the Confederations Cup in Brazil later this month was laid bare when coach Eddy Etaeta annnounced a 23-man squad containing 22 amateur players.

Faced with the might of African champions Nigeria, South American champions Uruguay and world and European champions Spain, against whom they have been drawn in Group B, Tahiti boast only one player — 33-year-old striker Marama Vahirua — who currently plays at professional level.

Tahiti’s victory in last year’s Oceania Cup of Nations earned them a place at the Confederations Cup, the quadrennial showcase that is contested by the world’s six reigning continental champions, as well as the host nation and the most recent World Cup winners.

This year’s line-up is completed by hosts Brazil, CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico, Asian champions Japan, and Italy, who qualify by virtue of having lost to Spain in the final of last year’s European Championship.

Vahirua plays for Greek Super League side Panthrakikos, having spent the bulk of his career in France with Nantes, Nice, Lorient, Nancy and Monaco.

His finest hour came in May 2001 when he scored the goal against Saint-Etienne that gave Nantes their eighth Ligue 1 title; a strike that was closely followed by his trademark oar-stroke celebration, which he performed in homage to his Polynesian origins.

Admired for his technical assurance and eye for goal, Vahirua was even capped at under-21 level by former France coach Raymond Domenech, but many of his Tahitian colleagues lead a modest life.

In an area of the world that has been severely affected by the global financial crisis, a third are without work.

Striker Samuel Hnanyine is a delivery man, who is often obliged to carry 50kg bags of flour. Defender Teheivarii Ludivion is a climber, specialising in work at altitude. Gilbert Meriel, one of the goalkeepers, is an auditor for the accountancy and consulting firm KPMG.

The international football equivalent of the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker, they will soon find themselves up against global superstars such as Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo.

Tahiti’s amateur contingent have been able to dedicate themselves exclusively to football for only two months, their leave having been paid for by the Tahitian Football Federation.

“In the history of football, we’re the first amateur footballers to participate in a big international competition,” Etaeta told AFP. “It’s an honour to represent amateurs, who make up 99 percent of players.”

Accustomed to playing in front of hundreds or even just tens of spectators, Tahiti’s players are steeling themselves to grace some of the giant stadiums that Brazil has either constructed or renovated in preparation for next year’s World Cup.

They tackle Nigeria in Belo Horizonte on June 17, face Spain in the newly re-opened 78,000-seater Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on June 20, and then meet Uruguay in Recife on June 23.

Preparations for the trials ahead have included the innovative use of speakers broadcasting shouts and whistles from thousands of spectators during their matches.

The Confederations Cup is by far the biggest sporting event for which a national team from Tahiti has qualified.

The under-20 football team did reach the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt in 2009, but they finished bottom of their four-team pool after conceding 21 unanswered goals in a group that coincidentally contained teams from Nigeria and Spain.

In another ironic twist, Tahiti is currently preparing to host the biggest sporting event ever to visit the island, with the Beach Soccer World Cup set to take place there in September.



Latest
India edge closer to victory (Tea Report)
Chelsea Transfer Rumour: Antonio Conte has eyes set on Lazio star Stefan de Vrij Blues looking elsewhere after deal for Koulibaly seemingly stalled.
Australia to help train Indian sportspersons, coaches
Transfer news and rumours of the day: 24th July, 2016 Here are the transfer news and rumours doing the rounds on July 24th.
EPL 2016-17: 5 early picks for Fantasy Premier League Looking at 5 early picks for the upcoming Fantasy Premier League season who might represent great value for money.
IOC rules out blanket ban on Russia from Rio Games (Roundup)
6 milestone transfers in football history A look at some important signings in football history which set world records at the time and paved the way for more expensive transfers.
Wayne Rooney reveals that Jose Mourinho wants him to play as a No. 10 for Manchester United The 30-year-old spoke about his new role in the team
Higuain feels the wrath of Napoli fans over reported move to Juventus
United boss Mourinho hopes to avoid injuries on poor pitch in China
Burnley apologise over alleged racism at Bradford
Kolo Toure joins Celtic on one-year contract
Australians stay away from Village due to blocked toilets, exposed wiring
Barcelona head to England for camp without new forward
8 famous players who donned the number 8 jersey 8 midfield maestros to have played the beautiful game wearing the figure "8".
Zenit St. Petersburg beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 in Russian Super Cup
Scout Report: Victor Lindelof - The Swedish defender Chelsea are desperate to sign With an ageing John Terry, injured Kurt Zouma and an inconsistent Gary Cahill, it is no wonder Chelsea are after a defender!
Manchester United transfer rumour - Juventus reject Manchester United's latest €120m bid for Paul Pogba Reports from Football Italia claim that Juventus want over 130m for Pogba
Reports: David Ospina hands in transfer request at Arsenal The Colombina is currently Arsenal's second choice keeper
Calm before tranquility: How Arsenal are wasting another transfer window Despite glaring needs in the squad, Wenger remains unperturbed about wasting another transfer window.
Live Transfer Blog: EPL, La Liga and Rest of Europe (24th July 2016) Live Transfer Blog: EPL, La Liga and Rest of Europe (24th July 2016).
More →
Related articles