The date 10 June 2012 went down in the history of Tahitian sport and will also live forever in the memory of Tahiti national coach Eddy Etaeta. That was the day his side beat New Caledonia 1-0 in the final of the OFC Nations Cup, thus securing their place at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013.
In an interview with FIFA.com, and with Brazil 2013 just a few short months away, Etaeta told us how he and his charges sang Brazilian pop songs to celebrate their historic achievement. Also on the agenda was Tahiti's determination to savour the atmosphere at the Festival of Champions, using the experience to develop the Tahitian game, and avoiding being overwhelmed when facing the likes of Group B rivals Spain and Uruguay.
FIFA.com: Can you tell us the first thing that went through your mind when you won the OFC Nations Cup?
Eddy Etaeta: It’s a fact that on 10 June 2012, the day of the Oceania Nations Cup final, our ultimate dream was to play in Brazil at the next Confederations Cup. When we heard the final whistle blow and we’d won, it was like a dream come true. We sang some well-known Brazilian songs and we were overcome with joy. It was brilliant and historic to qualify for the Confederations Cup.
Can you begin to imagine what the atmosphere will be like at Brazil 2013? How do you think it’ll feel to be involved?
Being a part of all that, the atmosphere surrounding football and the matches, is something quite unbelievable for us. The atmosphere in and around the stadiums will be exceptional and very memorable for us and the Tahiti players, players who are a long way from being used to a stage like this. Believe me, being in Brazil is a dream for our players. We know how much of a pleasure it's going to be.
The year 2013 really will be brilliant for a small country like ours, which only has a population of 250,000.
In terms of the future of football in Tahiti, how much difference can appearing at a FIFA Confederations Cup make?
Quite a lot. It’s something we’ve already spoken about at our football association. After the Confederations Cup, things are going to get interesting. It’s going to give us a real insight into our players and the best way for us to play. Right now, we’re [mostly] amateur players, with only one professional who’s playing in Greece. In the future I’m hopeful that the others can turn pro too. I think that’s vital for us to be able to take part in top-level competitions, qualify for the World Cup and go to a Confederations Cup and hold our own. Look at New Zealand. In the past, once they started taking part in competitions like this more of their players earned moves abroad. So, that’s something we’ll be aiming for after the Confederations Cup.
Do you need to work on your players’ mental approach, to prevent them being overwhelmed when facing big names such as Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez?
Well, after winning the Nations Cup, playing at the Confederations Cup is going to be incredible. But am I apprehensive about us playing in front of 80,000 people, the increased media coverage around my players or coming up against the likes of Xavi, and Iniesta or Neymar. I hope my players don’t get too tense, and my staff will help prepare them for that, so we don’t get totally overwhelmed by the atmosphere come our matches at the Confederations Cup.
Have you already thought about how you’ll send your side out against teams like Spain and Uruguay?
When the time comes to take on these great national teams, some of the best around at the moment, we need to ask ourselves: should we attack them or spend the game defending? I must be honest and say that I’m a little worried about how to tackle these matches, tactically speaking. But we do defend well, that’s true. Like I’ve told my players, if we can do that and go a half without conceding a goal, that’d be brilliant. And if we can get a goal ourselves, that’d be excellent too. We have to be realistic, since there’ll be some great teams there, but we’ve got the next six months to work very hard in tactical terms and prepare ourselves for that.
Whatever happens, 2013 is sure to be a historic year for Tahitian football, don’t you agree?
The year 2013 really will be brilliant for a small country like ours, which only has a population of 250,000. We’re going to play in the Confederations Cup in June and later, in September, we’ll host the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. They’re both big tournaments and, in my opinion, the latter could show we’ve got what it takes to hold events of this calibre. That’s important from an economic perspective as well as in social terms and for attracting tourists. As a result, our country is going to become better-known to people across the whole world.