This year’s thoroughly enjoyable Condeferations Cup in Brazil has given us many intriguing storylines so far – Spain’s total dominance, Brazil’s lethal attack but dodgy defence, Japan’s superb performance against Italy – but one team’s exploits have dominated much of the talk. That team is Tahiti.
The participation of the French Polynesian island, more famous for record-breaking times in canoeing than football and with a population only slightly larger than that of Islington, has definitely brought something new and different to the tournament. Some believe their participation is a good thing, while others see it as a negative. Longpuntupfield most certainly agrees with the former, and below we’ll state the reasons why:
1. This is genuinely going to be something that the Tahitian players remember for life
No matter the results, no one will ever be able to take this away from them. Not many people can claim to have played in a FIFA tournament in front of 70,000 people (as well as millions watching via television or online), let alone anyone back on Tahiti.
2. They deserve to be there
Tahiti won the OFC Nations Cup fair and square. New Zealand underperformed, losing in the semi-finals to New Caledonia, who Tahiti then beat in the final. We should celebrate the fact that a squad of amateur players were able to achieve that and be happy that their reward is playing against the other top nations from their respective continents. And let’s be honest, would New Zealand realistically have made a much bigger impact?
3. Strong teams facing weak teams is nothing new
We see it every year in the Champions League or the Europa League. Hell, we see it every year in every championship across the world! Manchester United versus Reading isn’t a fair game either, yet no one would ever say that Reading shouldn’t be given the chance to play United simply because they weren’t on the same level.
4. It gives us a chance to get behind an underdog
Yes we know that Tahiti will lose every game. Yes we know that they will ship lots of goals and will struggle to score. But there are those moments, before and during the game (when the score is at 0-0), where none of that matters and our imaginations can run wild. Tahiti are the ultimate underdog. Nothing is in their favour. Yet imagine – just imagine – if they were to get a result.
5. Tahiti represent the dream for the majority of football fans
The dream of every football fan, 99.9% of whom were never good enough to even think about making it in the upper echelons of the professional game, is to be plucked from obscurity and given that one chance. That one chance to make a name for yourself, to show what you’ve got, in front of the whole world. Now for nearly all of us that will never, ever happen, but for the Tahitian players it is now a reality. They are on the world stage. They’re living the dream.