One of the newer members in OFC is also one of the more successful ones. New Caledonia could have what it takes to go to a World Cup in the not-too-distant future.
FÉDÉRATION CALÉDONIENNE DE FOOTBALL QUICK FACTS:
- FA ESTABLISHED: 1928
- OFC/FIFA MEMBER: 1999/2004
- PRESIDENT: Steeve Laigle
- NATIONAL STADIUM: Stade Numa-Daly Magenta, Nouméa (also recently used is Stade Yoshida, Koné)
- MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MANAGER: Thierry Sardo
- WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MANAGER: Bina Ramesh
- SENIOR TOP DIVISIONS: Super Ligue (Men), Championnat Féminin Séniors (Women)
Formed in 1928 it took a long time before New Caledonia were accepted into the OFC and FIFA warmth, even though they were at the founding of the OFC back in 1966.
OFC accepted New Caledonia as a provisional member in 1999 and when they joined FIFA a couple of years later in 2004 they also gained full membership in the OFC. But the FIFA-membership took some doing. Due to being a French overseas territory they needed the French FA’s blessing, and after a couple of years’ preparation and talks they got it.
Historically New Caledonia have been quite successful. In the OFC Nations Cup they have three third places (1973, 1980, 2016) and two runners-up positions (2008, 2012). In the smaller Pacific Games (formerly South Pacific Games) they are the most successful team with 6 titles in total (1963, 69, 71, 87, 2007, 11, 15). They’ve only once been worse than fourth, in 1995 when they went out in the group stages.
At youth level their Under-17 team tasted success as recent as February this year when they reached the final of the OFC U-17 Championship where the tired players lost 7-0 to New Zealand. Despite that heavy defeat in the final, the tournament overall was a huge success as New Caledonia claimed a place in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later this year with their second place. That achievement means the young boys will be the first New Caledonians to represent their country at a major FIFA tournament.
The senior side are unfortunately out of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers as New Zealand’s two wins over Fiji means that they are uncatchable in Group A, so New Caledonia’s final two match against Fiji are for pride and honour only.
The men’s national team are currently sitting in 165th in the FIFA-Ranking just behind teams such as Cuba and Bhutan and just ahead of Gambia and Kuwait.
Perhaps with a bit of luck the New Caledonians can qualify for the big stage in 2022 or when the World Cup expands in 2026. They certainly have a chance.