Tahiti may be shipping goals at the Confederation Cup 2013, but they are playing with pride and huge smiles on their faces.
Ranked 138th in the world, they won the right for a place at one of football’s biggest competitions by lifting the Oceania Nations Cup as the regional big guns Australia and New Zealand – who played at the last World Cup Finals in South Africa – were eliminated.
Tahiti is an island nation in the South Pacific. The nearest neighbour of significance is New Zealand – which is 2,500 miles away.
Believe it or not, Tahiti’s footballing success is based on the team’s sound defence, which conceded just the one goal for 20 scored in winning the Oceania title.
And 15 of those goals were scored by the Tehau family – three brothers and a cousin.
Spain hit 10 past Tahiti
Surely the nation’s greatest footballing moment was lining up against World Champions and European Champions Spain, the world’s number one team that has lost just six of their last 95 games.
The 10-0 drubbing was one-sided and Tahiti knew they didn’t stand a chance of winning – and probably not of scoring when they walked out on to the pitch.
But they played to their best, despite lacking the skills and fitness to dent a winning machine like Spain, even if the coach Vicente del Bosque decided to field a much weakened team,
Nevertheless, Spain’s B team is packed full of top league and Champions League stars would be a difficult side to beat for many high-ranking international teams with more guile and talent than Tahiti.
In the previous match, they shipped six goals against Nigeria, the African champions, but kept their pride and saved face with a goal.
Fairy tale is over
Unfortunately Jonathan Tethau scored twice – but one was an own goal that added to the Super Eagles tally.
The fairy tale run is all but ended now, but Tahiti has one big game left in Brazil, against Uruguay.
They may not have won games, but they won a lot of support from football fans worldwide with their foray into the top echelons of world football.
Unfortunately, Tahiti may not win a seat at the world’s top table of soccer again, which is why everyone is so pleased they have made the most of their short opportunity of fame.
Next week, it’s back to work for the players, who are all amateurs, except for Marama Vahirua, a striker for Nancy in the French leagues. For years, he put club before country, but is now playing his part leading the attack.