It should come as no surprise that beach soccer is played on the stunning shores of French Polynesia’s largest island, and in some style too. Nevertheless, and despite the promise shown by the Tiki Toa or “Warrior Men”, as the national team are known, the discipline is still in its infancy in Tahiti.
On 26 February in the idyllic setting of Papeete, Tahiti defied all expectations by wresting the OFC trophy from perennial champions Solomon Islands, thereby booking their ticket to Ravenna 2011. Just a day earlier in the group stage, Fabrice Marchand’s men had been soundly beaten by the same Bilikiki team. It was a whole different story in the decider, however, when the Tahitians revealed a hitherto unseen compactness and fighting spirit to win an absorbing finale that had goals right from the first minute.
The future is in the making for Tahiti’s warrior men. Despite travelling to Ravenna with the tag of underdogs, they arrive in a blaze of glory and with the wind in their sails, as underlined by captain Naea Bennett: “Before the final we said we would have to be heroes, and I think we were”. So as they prepare to do battle with the greats of the game, the Tiki Toa have the chance to write a bright new chapter in the history of Oceanian beach soccer.
Jonathan Torohia, Naea Bennett, Teiva Izal
On the qualification trail Tahiti collected two victories, against Fiji and in the final against Solomon Islands, plus one defeat, also against the Solomons. A solid defence and a dangerous forward line formed the bedrock of their campaign, with consistency the added ingredient in their success.
The numbers game
1 - For Tahiti’s historic first participation in the finals of beach soccer’s global showpiece, and for the number on the shirt of shot-stopper Jonathan Torohia, named best goalkeeper at the OFC preliminary tournament.