Soccer is world famous game but when we talk about Beach Soccer we never forget Moorea’s Polynesian Paradise.
Beach Soccer In Tahiti
Tahiti has long been coveted as an idyllic tropical paradise. The hotel is located on the far edge of Oceania, halfway between Australia and South America, and appears to be out of the way even by Pacific standards.
Head to the other end of Tahiti’s main island, near Teahupo’o’s legendary surf hotspot, which is set to be the venue for the sport at the Paris 2024 Olympics. One looks at thousands of kilometers of the ocean without land mass being found before it hits South America.
French Polynesia, which encompasses all of the surrounding islands, offers football connections even further away. Half an hour’s drive from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, is Moorea, a breathtaking sight with its towering green mountains and azure reef that is rich in marine life.
Take a one-hour drive around the island and it’s easy to understand why Fletcher Christian and his group of 18th-century mutineers are known to have chosen to avoid the old continent and seek a new lifestyle in Polynesia.
Moorea may feel sleepy but continues to play an important role in shaping Tahitian football. The island, with just over 15,000 inhabitants, is closely associated with the game and has had little impact on the continent recently.
Fourteen years ago, Moorea was selected to host the very first edition of the OFC Beach Soccer Championship. The bare bones of the facility remain intact (see figure above) and offer a wonderful picture of football, the posts of which are practically washed by waves at high tide.
Tahiti finished third behind the Solomon Islands, but a legend was born at Tamea Beach in 2006. Despite a modest population, the Tiki Toa (Warrior Gods) achieved extraordinary successes with successive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups.
Tahiti previously hosted the tournament in 2013 – the first FIFA tournament in the Pacific Islands. The venue at the port of Papeete offered a nightly sunset that sets off from Moorea’s towering mountains.
The same year, Tahiti won the heart and mind with an unlikely appearance at the FIFA Confederations Cup at the expense of the habitual kings of Oceania, New Zealand. Even the goal of winning the continental championship provided its own rare backstory: Steevy Chong came from the remote island of Raiatea, about 150 miles from the Tahitian mainland.
Moorea may be small in both size and population, but football, like the rest of French Polynesia, is probably the most popular land-based sport. The clubs on the island offer teams from U-7 to seniors.
AS Tiare Tahiti (picture below) is undoubtedly at the top of the pyramid, which comes from the municipality of Afareaitu. Within 12 months, the club moved from Moorea’s local competition to the OFC Champions League after finishing second in Tahiti’s Ligue 1.
Tiare Tahiti was founded in 1968 and just reached the quarter-finals and a possible match against the regulars of the FIFA Club World Cup in Auckland City.
The challenge now is to return to the Champions League and maybe even host games in the palm-lined Stade Afareaitu.
Moorea’s first ever appearance in the continental competition was short-lived, but the local football fraternity will hope that the club’s performance will further improve football status across the island.
This is the first in our “The Global Game” series, which focuses on soccer out of the spotlight. Next week we’ll be watching soccer in Bhutan.