“When we play each other in club football it makes me want to win even more. In football, there is no family but the team you play for. If your brother plays against you, you play to win.”
These are the words of Alvin Tehau, 23, one of four men from the same family scoring goals galore for Tahiti at the OFC Nations Cup 2012. The four Tehau boys chose football over Tae Kwan Do because of the proximity of AS Tefana football club – it was the closest sports facility to their home and school. As the boys began to express themselves individually, they chose different clubs.
Lorenzo and Alvin are standouts with AS Tefana in Division Federale, while Jonathan stars for Tamarii Faaa. Teaonui plays his football with AS Venus. But all four are proud to wear the red of Tahiti. “I’m very proud to play in the national team with my family,” enthused Alvin Tehau about Tahiti, semi-finalists in the OFC Nations Cup. “We are a unit within the national team. I think it helps the team as a whole.”
Teaonui, nicknamed ‘Filou’ by his cousins, was targeted for special attention from Vanuatu’s defenders. But did having his cousins in the same team help? “No,” he replied instantly, laughing. “I was getting kicked by our opponents but when I turn around, I only saw Alvin coming to help! The other two didn’t come!”
Lorenzo is more pragmatic: “We always care about family, but we won’t react in a negative way. The referee is there to make decisions. I’m happy to play together – it’s taken a long time for us to come together in one team.”
Families fall out from time to time but the Tehau boys have a clear perspective when it comes to football. “If we shout at each other we leave this separate from football,” said Jonathan. “What happens in life isn’t part of the football.”
I’m happy to play together – it’s taken a long time for us to come together in one team.
Tahiti have electrified the OFC Nations Cup thus far, with a run of three wins from three booking their place in the semi-finals. But it’s the name of Tehau that has caught the eye, the four family members having scored nine goals in Tahiti’s 10-1 win over Samoa with eldest brother Jonathon, 24, scoring a double, twins Lorenzo and Alvin grabbing four and two respectively, and their 19-year-old cousin Teaonui one.
When asked who the best player of the four is, they each turn to Teaonui. Lorenzo and Alvin are in agreement on this point. “It is Teonui,” said Alvin. “He is young at just 19 years of age and has a big future in front of him. I would like to play semi-professional in Australia or the USA, but I think at 23 years old I am maybe too late to be professional.” Jonathan and Teaonui, however, take a different view, singling out Alvin himself as the most talented of the four.
The unique family achievement is being enjoyed back in Tahiti, where Alvin, Lorenzo and Jonathan’s mother is delighted with her boys. “Our mother is really happy to see us playing together,” Alvin said.
Alvin, Lorenzo and Teaonui represented Tahiti at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, where they struggled, but Alvin believes he was strengthened by that traumatic campaign. “We didn’t know our level before that – we played world stars and theirs was a much higher level than ours. “he said. “But we learned a lot. It was a rich experience. When we came back, I felt we were much stronger as players and people.”
Twins Alvin and Lorenzo were on the scoresheet again in a 4-3 win over New Caledonia and completed the group stage with more goals as Vanuatu were seen off 4-1, with Jonathan, Alvin and Teaonui on target.
The Tehau boys are all strong, tall and very quick, but each has different influences on their style of play. Alvin prefers Lionel Messi, Jonathan is a fan of Zinedine Zidane, Lorenzo opts for Iniesta and Xavi, while the joker of the family, Teaonui, identifies the Tahiti physiotherapist as his role model! “Messi is the best player in the world even if Barcelona did not win the league,” Alvin said. Locally, former AS Pirae and Tahiti midfielder Naea Bennett is a player all four admire.
The discussion returns to a serious tone as thoughts of a return to football and their bid for continental glory. “We’re happy with what we have achieved but we are in the semi-finals and the tournament really begins now,” Alvin said. Teonui believes reaching the next stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Oceania Qualifiers Stage 3 was the main objective: “We’ve reached our main goals. Everything else from here is a bonus for Tahiti.”