The 2013 Fifa Confederations Cup kicked off yesterday in Brazil. The host country made quick work of Japan on the power of a wonderstrike by the ever impressive Neymar.
The competition features eight teams. Japan qualified by winning the Asian Cup, Mexico by winning the Gold Cup, Nigeria by winning the Africa Cup of Nations, Spain by winning the World Cup, Italy qualified by finishing second to Spain at Euro 2012, Uruguay got in by winning Copa America, Brazil automatically qualified as the host nation, and tiny Tahiti got in by winning the OFC Nations Cup.
By winning the OFC Nations Cup, the Tahitian National Team became the first country other than Australia or New Zealand to advance out of the OFC. Australia played their way out of the OFC a few years ago. When the Socceroos moved to the Asian Football Confederation, it gave smaller nations like Tahiti a chance to play on the world’s stage.
The Tahitians made it out of OFC by defeating New Caledonia in the final. New Caledonia had pulled the upset of the tournament by defeating New Zealand in the semi-final.
Tahiti was able to defeat the New Caledonians 1-0 on a 10th minute goal from Steevy Chong Hue. Hue’s goal gave Tahiti their first ever international title.
A year later, Hue and Team Fenua face the daunting task of not embarrassing themselves at the Confederations Cup.
In an interview with The Daily Star, Tahiti FA President Henri Thierry Ariiotima made it clear the island nation is just happy to have been invited to the party.
“Just being involved in the Confederations Cup really gives us the chance to improve and having to organize the Beach World Cup for FIFA with 16 teams proves we have the capacity and potential to play a real part in world football.
“We know our limitations and we know we face very hard opponents in the Confederations Cup, but playing the world champions at the Maracana is an impossible dream that has been made real. I just hope we get our tactics right.
“Of course we will probably lose, but we don’t want to lose by too many goals,” Ariiotima added.
They open up group play against the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Nigeria is ranked 31st in the world and have plenty of talented players who ply their trade in some of the world’s best leagues. Online bookmakers, 5dimes lists Tahiti at +3388.
Tahiti on the other hand have one professional player on their squad, and he has yet to feature for the Pacific Islanders. In fact, none of Tahiti’s players are full-time.
Their center-back, Teheivarii Ludivion, told The Guardian his real occupation is working as a ‘climber.’
Bridge building, pylon installation and roof repair all constitute daily duties for the Tahitian. “In my life, football is just a leisure pursuit. It will always take second place to my work, which is more important,” he said, as the Polynesians’ debut in a major senior tournament draws ever closer, the AS Tefana centre-back, who admits to still harbouring dreams of a professional career, cannot hide his delight.
Following their match with Nigeria, Tahiti will have the honor of taking on one of the best national squads of all-time when they face defending World Cup and European Cup Champions, Spain.
Considering that they just got torched by the Chilean u-20 squad 7-0, just scoring a goal in one of these games would be a major accomplishment for Tahiti Nui — a local nickname which means Big Tahiti.
When Big Tahiti takes on three legitimate soccer powers — the world will be there, backing the Islanders as they get a chance to do something no Tahitian has ever done before. It is already an adorably awesome tale, and with one measly goal could turn into something incredible.