The latest stop in the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola took a former champion back home yesterday as Christian Karembeu returned to New Caledonia. The former France international, who was born on the Pacific island, was on hand as the Trophy made its debut in Noumeea to great acclaim from the delighted locals. For the 1998 FIFA World Cup winner, it was a special moment. “I never thought I would be able to bring the FIFA World Cup Trophy back to where I was born and grew up,” he said. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to bring the FIFA World Cup Trophy to my homeland.
More than 4000 football enthusiasts descended on the Tjibaou Cultural Center to savour the wonderful excitement of a close-up view of the FIFA World Cup Trophy as well as enjoying other attractions such as a special 3D movie showcasing the tournament’s history and the chance to have their photograph taken with the Trophy itself. The FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola, which will visit 83 countries in 225 days covering 138,902 kilometers before arriving in South Africa ahead of the big kick-off, will now head on to Brazil. However, before it departed the shores of New Caledonia, FIFA.com caught up with Karembeu for an exclusive chat about this very special homecoming.
FIFA.com: Did you ever think that you might one day bring the FIFA World Cup Trophy back to New Caledonia, your homeland?
Chistian Karembeu: I never thought this would happen. As an ambassador for Oceanian football, I feel very grateful that FIFA and its partner Coca-Cola has created such an exceptional tour in order to bring the FIFA World Cup Trophy so close to the local people. I am very honoured to hold the FIFA World Cup Trophy again and I am very proud of my country. New Caledonia is a relatively new member association of FIFA but people here have deep feelings about football. In fact, the history of football in New Caledonia can be traced back to 1904.
When were you last here?
I was here about two years ago when FIFA Congress was held in Australia and I had chance to come back to New Caledonia for my jubilee event together with the FIFA President, Mr Joseph Blatter.
What hopes do you have for New Caledonia’s football development in the next five years?
New Caledonia FA only formed 4 years ago and, of its 300,000 citizens, we have more than 10,000 registered football players at the moment. In five years’ time, I hope that number will be doubled. The recent development of New Caledonia football has also brought about greater diversity. For example, we have more girls playing football and we also have developed beach soccer and futsal. With the establishment of the FIFA Goal Project, we will have more and more young people playing football.
What kind of message do you want to bring to those playing football in New Caledonia?
I have deep feeling about my country, and I will never forget where I came from and who I am. Football can unite people, and natives like me can also achieve great things if they have a dream. People can achieve their dreams if they have better education, work hard and respect the rules of fair play.
What are your expectations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa?
I think this is one of the best choices FIFA has ever made. For a long time, South Africa wanted to make it happen and they developed football facilities and enhanced their football education in order to live up to FIFA’s standards. They did a great job at the Confederations Cup last year. I am pretty sure that football will not only bring peace to the African continent, but also break down all kinds of walls that stand between people.
And what will you be doing during South Africa 2010?
I will be working as a TV commentator.