In many ways Brazil 2013 is the culmination of Eddy Etaeta’s dream for his beloved national team. A passionate and proud wearer of Tahiti’s red shirt during two FIFA World Cup™ campaigns, the Festival of Champions is the culmination of planning that has been three years in the making since Etaeta assumed the national team reins.
Born in 1970 in the capital Papeete, Etaeta made an immediate impact on the local scene as a midfielder, spending his entire career in French Polynesia. He first donned the Toa Aito colours prior to Tahiti being granted permission to field a full international line-up in the early 1990s. He made his FIFA World Cup debut in 1992 against Solomon Islands in what was Tahiti’s maiden appearance in qualifying. He featured again five years later in France 1998 qualifying playing against Australia and Solomon Islands.
Etaeta succeeded Gerard Kautai in 2010 with the team effectively inactive since a disastrous FIFA World Cup campaign ended ignominiously in August 2007.
With a new crop of young players making the transition to senior ranks following an appearance at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the new man immediately set in train a long-term development plan with the 2012 OFC Nations Cup in mind.
Initial signs were modest with the team reaching the semi-finals of the 2011 Pacific Games and failing to reach the last four of the Coupe de l'Outre-Mer; a football tournament for the overseas departments and territories of France.
After finishing top of their 2012 OFC Nations Cup group with victories over Samoa, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, they then beat Solomon Islands in the semi-final and Francophone rivals New Caledonia in a history-making finale. The breakthrough win – the first by a Pacific Islands nation – was built on unity and a high level of team cohesion forged by Etaeta in the preceding years.