Rarely, if ever, has a tournament taken place in such a breathtaking setting.  Of course, there are some stadiums in the world which are truly awe-inspiring, but the natural beauty of Temae Beach in Moorea, the location for the Oceania qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, is something incredibly special.

"I doubt there are many settings in world football that are as picturesque as this; we hope that Moorea becomes a permanent fixture on the international beach soccer calendar," said OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas.

"The natural geography of our region lends itself to this form of the game, and resource-wise it provides an attractive alternative for some of our smaller National Associations, especially in terms of the simple things, like not needing to have football boots."

Initially, the qualifiers for the Oceania Football Confederation were scheduled to be held in Dubai together with the Asian event in May, but Tahiti proposed to host a tournament and the new purpose-built facility at Temae Beach was named as the venue.

"We are thankful that we are able to host our own FIFA qualifiers in our confederation and give it a real Pacific flavour," smiled Nicholas.  "For our confederation this will be a watershed moment.  It will be the first time an island nation from our area has entered the world stage after 40 years of trying." 

Islanders hope to join the big boys
The Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and hosts Tahiti will battle it out to become the first OFC nation other than Australia and New Zealand to qualify for a FIFA event. While the quartet only has limited beach soccer experience, they are enthusiastic about the chance to make it to the finals in Rio de Janiero.

Vanuatu are considered to be the favourites, as they have been working together as a team for several months.  Under the tutelage of experienced Uruguayan coach Carlos Buzetti, the Melanesians will look to Jean Emmanuel Maleb and Seimata Chilia to help them achieve their goal.

Tahiti are led by Sebastien Labayen, who has plenty of beach soccer experience, while the Cook Islands have brought a squad consisting mostly of teenagers to Temae Beach. 

Completing the line-up are the Solomon Islands who have the highly-rated Vivian Wickham in charge.  The young coach has been able to select a strong team for this tournament and has named internationals Gideon Omokirio, Richard Anisua and James Naka in his squad.

The tournament begins on Thursday with a derby match between Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, before the hosts take on the Cook Islands.  The four teams will play each other once in the round-robin stage and the final will take place between the top two teams on Sunday.

The winner of that match will travel to Rio in November to take part in the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.  They will be in Group C, together with Portugal, Uruguay and an as-yet unknown African qualifier.

Match Schedule
2006 OFC Beach Soccer Tournament
Temae Beach, Moorea, Tahiti

Thursday 31 August
Vanuatu - Solomon Islands
Tahiti - Cook Islands

Friday 1 September
Vanuatu - Cook Islands
Tahiti - Solomon Islands

Saturday 2 September
Solomon Islands - Cook Islands
Tahiti - Vanuatu

Sunday 3 September
Match for Third place