Tahiti's Route to the Confederations Cup
Tahiti are a team made up predominately of amateur footballers. Despite that fact, they will take on Nigeria in the Confederations Cup tonight.
It seems perfectly plausible to pose the question then, of exactly how the tiny Polynesian island managed to qualify for the tournament.
Where were New Zealand to stop Tahiti on their way to conquering the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Nations Cup? That's the first question that springs to mind.
Shockingly, the answer is that they were beaten 2-0 in the semi-finals by New Caledonia, who, at the time, were ranked number 155 in the world, 55 places below New Zealand.
The other question for the more casual football fan might be - what happened to Australia?
Well, simply, since 2006, the Socceroos have competed in tournaments organised by the Asian Football Confederation, deemed an easier route of World Cup qualification to that offered by the OFC.
Eddy Etaeta, Tahiti's manager, known as "Dad" to most of his players, explained to the media yesterday how the absence of Australia and New Zealand opened the door for his nation to compete on the world stage.
"If Australia were still part of the Oceania confederation we would never, ever see a small island state like ours take part in a competition like the Confederations Cup," he is quoted by Reuters as having said.
"After Australia left, New Zealand were the best country in the confederation, but now a small island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, just 270,000 people, will take part and write a new page in football history."
It was thanks to Steevy Chong Hue's 13th minute strike, exactly one year and one week ago today, that Tahiti became the first team, other than the two Oceania 'giants', to win the OFC Nations Cup.
So what of Tahiti's players, unknown to even the most fervent of football followers?
Etaeta said: "We have guys doing different jobs, but nine of the squad are unemployed. Some of them are delivery boys, a truck driver, some of them are PE teachers, some are accountants.
"And we also have a player - Teheivarii Ludivion - he wakes up every day at 4.30 in the morning and climbs mountains all day long.
"He is a mountain climber, but he will climb anything. He climbs coconut trees, he climbs all kinds of things and then he comes training."
Does Etaeta truly believe his side stand a chance tonight then?
"Technically and physically we work hard and although it is unlikely we will be on a par with Nigeria tomorrow, we are ready, we will fight like lions and do everything to represent our country as best as possible," he said.
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