On 18 September 2013, the people of Tahiti will celebrate a historic event before the eyes of the world. That day, the curtain will rise on the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and with one year to go to the much-anticipated kick-off, celebrations have already begun on the island nation with the unveiling of the competition’s official emblem.
To observe this occasion in a fitting manner, the Tahitians pulled out all the stops on 18 September 2012. Aside from the presentation of the striking tournament logo, the ceremony marked the launch of the promotional campaign for the FIFA event. Over 600 participants, 500 of whom were aged between 15 and 30 and invited from towns and villages all over the island, joined in with the festivities laid on by the Local Organising Committee.
In addition to the presence of a FIFA delegation, tournament partners and local politicians such as Sport Minister Tauhiti Nena and Papeete Mayor Michel Buillard, the day was enlivened by the appearance of a group of young men who could well become Tahitian heroes in the not too distant future: the Tiki Toa (Warrior Men), otherwise known as the Beach Soccer national side.
As they prepare to conquer the world on their own white sands next year, they won the hearts of the entire island courtesy of a boisterous rendition of the Haka dance.
After this lively icebreaker, speeches were delivered by the Tahitian government, by a representative of the French government, by the City of Papeete, and by FIFA, and these were interspersed by video presentations and traditional performances by local artists.
“In an economic downturn, we need events like the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to stir our imagination and bring us together,” said Mayor Buillard, who was delighted to have been able to delay a planned trip to France to take part in the ceremony.
Organisers were keen to express their hope that the upcoming tournament would be a resounding success, and if this initial gathering – centred on youth, sport and music – is anything to go by, it certainly will be.
Pepena, a popular local group, provided some energetic musical entertainment, as did young singer-songwriter Haunui, whose hit single ‘ori ori tatou e’ got the whole crowd moving, while a trio of Polynesian dance companies, Te Oko o te Henua Enana, Knight Riders, and Edwin et ses danseuses, put on some memorable performances.
“It’s the best launch ceremony I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending,” said Jaime Yarza, a member of the FIFA delegation. “All of the ingredients came together brilliantly in a dynamic, intense, lively and interactive show. The audience was completely captivated,” he added.
The remainder of the day was equally interesting, as the Beach Soccer Tour, a football tournament for unemployed youths, also saw the light of day. Twenty-four teams locked horns all afternoon, before giving way to the Tiki Toa, who provided a foretaste of what the islanders can look forward to next year with a spectacular exhibition match.
To conclude an eventful day dedicated to the beach variety of football, further traditional dance displays by the O Tahiti e dance troupe and a concert by Pepena brought proceedings to a close in Papeete under a starlit sky, sending attendees home excited by the prospect of a potentially unforgettable FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2013.