With the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 just around the corner, the host team broke off from their preparations and accepted an invitation to visit Nuutania prison, Tahiti’s only penitentiary centre, on Monday.

Opened in 1970, Nuutania lies just a few kilometres from the city of Papeete and is the biggest jail in French Polynesia, housing inmates from all over the islands.   

The Tiki Toa were invited to the prison by its sports department as part of an educational project running in conjunction with the world finals. The goal is to draw on beach soccer and the various countries taking part in the competition to encourage inmates to take classes in subjects such as history, geography, mathematics and French.  

The project, which aims to be both fun and inclusive, seeks to help inmates in their efforts to return to society and is generating huge demand. Around 100 of the prison’s inhabitants took similar classes in 2012, while the organisation of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup has only increased their desire to further their education.

“I had the idea of bringing the Tiki Toa along a few months ago, but more than anything it’s the inmates who’ve been asking for it to happen,” said Area Resopawiro, the prison’s sports supervisor and the man behind this highly unique visit.  

Angelo Schirinzi’s players were more than willing to accept the invitation and Monday’s visit had a big impact on them.

“I’d never been to a prison before,” said Teva Zaveroni, clearly moved by the experience. “All we’re trying to do is bringing a little bit of hope to the prisoners.”

“We’ve all got a TV in our cells and we’ll be right behind the Tiki Toa during the World Cup,” said one of the inmates, delighted to have met the idols of an island that is ready to take on the world on the sands of Papeete.