The big questions before the first OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup in far, far too long is; can Tahiti defend their spot as the best nation on the continent, or will the Solomon Islands take back what used to be theirs? Can Vanuatu or New Caledonia throw their hat in the ring and will Tonga surprise everyone?
So then, to the first Oceania Beach Soccer Nations Cup in, seemingly, forever, we go!
And is there a better place to restart the competition which has been out of business since 2013, than Parc Aorai Tini Hau in Papeete, Tahiti? I think not.
Five teams will compete for the trophy and that glorious spot at the Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay next year. The pre-tournament favourites are two-time World Cup runners-up Tahiti and record-winning OFC side Solomon Islands.
All teams will play each other once, before the top two meet in the final, third play fourth, and the team that ends last play an invitational club side as their final match. The entire thing will take six days, so it’s a very hectic schedule.
You can watch all the matches live and for free on Mycujoo!
See the full schedule at the bottom of the article.
Let’s meet the contestants!
We start at the other Francophone nation in this tournament. Les Cagous make only their second appearance in the tournament, after hosting it the last time out. But boy was that a success as they finished second.
Granted, it was only a three nations tournament, and they only beat third-placed Vanuatu 7-6, while both got smashed by the Solomon Islands, but let’s not dwell on details too much eh?
The squad is a very interesting one with several players familiar to those who follow the grass game in Oceania. Several players have OFC Champions League or national team experience and there are a few players from the highly successful Hienghène Sport, including match-winner Amy Antoine Roine.
Hienghène coach Felix Tagawa will look to lead another team to continental glory after the OCL success.
The coach revealed that they haven’t really practised beach soccer at all and that they had a meeting with the FIFA referee from Tahiti to make sure they had all the rules in place.
“It was not necessarily easy to set up the team, over a very short period of time, but it’s a good thing to be able to participate again in these Qualifications,” Tagawa told the New Caledonian FA website.
“Beach Soccer is very complementary to eleven-a-side football. We realize that we do not officially practice beach soccer in the country. In any case, we will do everything to make the most of our group.”
Predicted finish: 3rd place.
Team List: 1. Rocky NYIKEINE, (GK) 2. Georges WAKANUMUNE, 3. Jean-Jacques KATRAWA, 4. Jacky WETEWEA, 5. Jérémie DOKUNENGO, 6. Jacky WEINANE, 7. Yvanoe BAMY, 8. Jean-Pierre AYAWA, 9. Amy Antoine ROINE, 10. Joseph ATHALE, 11. Patrick DIAIKE, 12. Jean-Nathanael HLEMU (GK)
The reigning champions of Oceania will look to defend their crown from the last time the tournament was held.
It must have been infuriating to watch Tahiti be gifted the spot at the last two World Cups despite the Solomon Islands technically being the defending champion of Oceania.
That’s some motivation for Gideon Omokirio’s charges. The most exciting names in the squad are probably James Naka and Anthony Tala, with veteran goalkeeper Fred Hale providing a very experienced head at the back.
“Beach soccer was the sport that put Solomon Islands football on the world map and there is a huge interest about tournament back home and all football loving Solomon Islanders will follow our fortunes,” the Bilikiki coach told OFC.
Predicted finish: 2nd place.
Team List: 1. Abraham BIRD (GK), 2. Allen FAROBO, 3. Roy MAFANE, 4. Thompson PETER, 5. Nelson SAMANI, 6. Nicholas MURI, 7. Max FA’ARI, 8. Anthony TALO, 9. Kiven KOIPALA, 10. James NAKA, 11. Mcphilip AISA, 12. Fred HALE (GK)
The big boys on the continent are pretty clear favourites for this tournament. The team is in the top five teams in the world and there’s a reason for that.
However, they will be facing somewhat of a big generational change the next few years, starting at this tournament.
Gone are long-serving captains Naea Bennett and Teva Zaveroni, as well as Raimoana Bennett. Naea is however still lingering, as he has turned into the coach of the team.
New captain Raimana Li Fung Kuee, Tearii Labaste and Heimanu Taiarui – who has returned from Switzerland for the tournament – will provide a pretty lethal attack with Jonathan Torohia, one of the absolute best goalkeepers on the planet, at the back.
“There are some very good teams here, the likes of Solomon Islands will be tough but also all the other teams. There are no clear favourites, but we are ready for the games and all our players are keen to showcase our skills and power on the sand to have a great tournament for the people of Tahiti,” Li Fung Kuee told the OFC.
Predicted finish: 1st place.
Team List: 1. Jonathan TOROHIA (GK), 2. Angelo TCHEN, 3. Ariihau TERIITAU, 4. Heimanu TAIARUI, 5. Gervais CHAN KAT, 6. Patrick TEPA, 7. Raimana LI FUNG KUEE, 8. Heiarii TAVANAE, 9. Heirauarii SALEM, 10. Tearii LABASTE, 11. Teaonui TEHAU, 12. Franck REVEL (GK)
I will level with you here, dear readers. I have no clue what this team will bring, and anyone who says they do are lying. For all we know, this could very well be the greatest beach soccer team in the world, and part of me hopes so. But knowing Tonga’s track record at other OFC events makes that unlikely.
Nevertheless, their story is a heart-warming one: The Tautahai, as they’re called, will make their debut at beach soccer with this tournament. Tonga’s Technical Director Kifi Uele was so excited by the OFC Beach Soccer World Cup in Tahiti in 2013 that he went straight back to Tonga and started planning to get a Tonga team to the OFC edition.
Most of the team has been training together since being introduced at a beach soccer course on the islands of Ha’apai in 2015.
“This competition is going to be a tough games for our team, however we already well prepared for the challenge. We know it is our first game at international level and our boys are eager to go out there and do their very best,” Tonga Head Coach Makamione Loni told the Tonga FA website.
“Back home in Ha’apai where most of us came from, our Governor with our families and people of our islands will watch us play, through the OFC website, and that is a big thing for myself and the boys.”
They have a bye on the first match-day but will then face Tahiti when they make their sandy debut.
Predicted finish: 5th place.
Team List: 1. Sione TAKELO (GK), 2. Tevita HAVILI, 3. Folauhola MESUI, 4. Tupou UHATAHI, 5. Penisimani VEIKOSO, 6. Joseph PALE, 7. Pitasoni ULAVALU, 8. Sione TUTONE, 9. Siaki FINAU, 10. Alimoni KAUFUSI (GK), 11. Kilifi UELE, 12. Sione TUPOU
The Wilson Marango coached side have plenty of experience at this tournament and will look to get their first ever win at the tournament, after three silver medals.
However, that will be a very difficult task, but if they play up to their best in all the games, a spot in the final could be doable.
An interesting squad with a couple of somewhat familiar names from the grass-game brings a little bit of excitement to it, but it’s mainly undescribed talent taking to the sand.
“Our prime objective is to revive the sport in Vanuatu by tasting it again at OFC level for the first time in six years,” coach Marango told the OFC.
“Our return to the competition will provide us with a growing confidence for future tournaments. We have been preparing since March and we believe in the potential of our emerging young talent which bodes well for our future.”
Predicted finish: 4th place.
Team List: 1. Seiloni IARUEL (GK), 2. Don MANSALE, 3. Ivong WILSON, 4. Octav MELTECOIN, 5. Antonio MALAPA, 6. Reece TASIP, 7. Harison MASSING, 8. Eddison STEPHEN, 9. Johndas THOMAS, 10. Evaristo KAPALU, 11. Loic BOULET, 12. Alfred MALAS (GK)
Match Day 1 – Mon 17 June
New Caledonia vs Solomon Islands
Tahiti vs Vanuatu
Tonga – Bye
Match Day 2 – Tue 18 June
Vanuatu vs Solomon Islands
Tahiti vs Tonga
New Caledonia – Bye
Match Day 3 – Wed 19 June
Solomon Islands vs Tonga
Vanuatu vs New Caledonia
Tahiti – Bye
Match Day 4 – Thu 20 June
Tonga vs New Caledonia
Solomon Islands vs Tahiti
Vanuatu – Bye
Match Day 5 – Fri 21 June
Tonga vs Vanuatu
New Caledonia vs Tahiti
Solomon Islands – Bye
Match Day 6 – Sat 22 June
5th place team vs invitational club
3rd Place Play-Off