- Une Kecine had an eventful FIFA tournament debut with New Caledonia
- Though he conceded seven goals, he made a memorable penalty save
- Shot-stopper overcame cramp to finish Sunday's match in Guwahati
It would have been perfectly understandable if New Caledonia goalkeeper Une Kecine had preferred to stay inside the changing rooms, following his team’s heavy 7-1 defeat at the hands of France in their debut appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 on Sunday.
But the young shot-stopper is not the type to hide in difficult situations, and despite conceding seven goals and ending the match hopping on one leg, he came out to discuss the disappointing match with FIFA.com.
Playing for pride
“We had such a bad first half – I let in six goals, and when we got back to the changing rooms, the coach really let us have it, and talked a lot about pride,” recounted Kecine, limping towards the team bus. “Even though we were 6-0 down, there was still another half of football to play and to show what we were made of. When we went back out, there was a real change of attitude: we were more focused and we had the word ‘pride’ ringing in our ears.”
The proof of the pudding was in the OFC side’s much-improved display in the second period, during which Kecine pulled off a fantastic penalty save to deny France’s Maxence Caqueret.
“I’ll remember that save for a long time, no doubt,” said the athletic ’keeper, whose moment of brilliance led to his team-mates, coaching staff and the New Caledonia fans present in Guwahati jumping for joy, just as they did when Sidri Wadenges scored an historic goal for the competition newcomers in the final seconds.
“For us, as amateur players, saving a penalty or scoring a goal at this level is like winning the World Cup,” explained Kecine, preferring to concentrate on those two positives rather than the avalanche of setbacks he and his countrymen suffered versus Les Bleuets: losing an early goal, scoring two own goals, and conceding seven times.
Kecine versus France:
- Faced 31 shots, 17 of which were on target
- 5 decisive saves
- 1 saved penalty
Doubtless due to the high-octane nature of the 90 minutes, the talented custodian was struck by extreme cramp in his leg – an unusual occurrence for a player in his position – at the end of the match. In fact, the pain was so intense that Dominique Wacalie, coach of Les Cagous, was already trying to work out which outfield player to place between the sticks for the last few moments.
“It was so painful that I actually couldn’t stand up,” said Kecine. “But when I realised that we’d already made our three substitutions, I just told myself that I had to do it, and that I would put up with the pain for the sake of the team.”
It was a sacrifice that was appreciated by his coach. “It was brilliant to see him refuse to give up,” said Wacalie. “And on top of that, he made that great penalty save, for which I congratulated him. He showed that we’re capable of doing great things against major footballing nations.”
And they will need to continue in that vein, because clashes with Honduras and Japan – two countries familiar with what is required at the highest level – await in Group E. “Now the excitement of the opening match is behind us,” noted Kecine. “We’re going to put in a lot of work and attempt to stay more focused at the start of our two remaining matches, and try to qualify for the next round.”
Asked if the game constituted a dream or a nightmare, he concluded the interview in philosophical fashion. “It was probably a bit of both,” he said. “I let in seven goals in our U-17 World Cup debut. It was very stressful and difficult. It was the first time that we’d played in such a large stadium and in front of such a big crowd. Things are not really like that in New Caledonia. But parts of the match did feel like a dream, such as the penalty I saved and the goal we managed to score.”