All change for cheerleaders in Tahiti
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Historically, the entertainment breaks during FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup matches have been the exclusive preserve of beautiful female cheerleaders, whose looks and well-rehearsed choreography regularly sent pulses racing. And here at Tahiti 2013, a new twist has been added, thanks to a clutch of talented – and muscular – local male dancers.

“We’re a group of dancers who were taking part in a competition,” said the team’s leader and choreographer Heiva Ah-Min, when speaking to FIFA.com. “After that, the Local Organising Committee got in touch with us about performing here. We said yes straight away!”

Though there were a few initial nerves, Ah-Min is delighted about the reception his group have had during the tournament. “As it was the first time [there’d been male performers] in the history of this competition, we weren’t sure how the fans were going to react,” said the 23-year-old. “We were even a little taken aback by just how well we went down. My girlfriend was a bit jealous [of all the attention] at first, but she’s over it now,” he added with a grin. 

We weren’t sure how the fans were going to react. We were even a little taken aback by just how well we went down.
The men's leader and choreographer Heiva Ah-Min

A few metres away is Arlene, leader of the group of five cheerleaders that have travelled from the Canary Islands to Papeete to perform at the competition, alongside ten Tahitian dancers specially selected for the showpiece occasion. Boasting five years’ experience at beach soccer events, the 25-year-old is perfectly placed to give a verdict on Ah-Min and Co.

“To be honest, we love the fact there’s a male presence at the event and that it’s not just us out there, being the centre of attention,” she said. “The guys have been getting plenty of cheers from the women in the crowd!”

The original plan was for the men and women to dance separately, though that proved another of the ‘glass ceilings’ shattered here in Tahiti. “Combining our routines isn’t as easy as it looks, but it’s turned out well,” continued Arlene. “All the Tahitian guys and girls are really nice though, which is a big help.”

Saving the million-dollar question until last, are the male performers here to stay? “I don’t know, it’s hard to say, but as it’s worked well, I think it should be taken into consideration [for the next Beach Soccer World Cup]” said Ah-Min, before giving the final word to his Spanish colleague: “I think that since male dancers have been brought in at other [beach soccer] events already, it’s something that should continue.”