Marama Vahirua expects to debut for Tahiti in 2013.
Photo: FC Panthrakikos Komotini
The striker has previously been named by national coach Eddy Etaeta in both the Nations Cup line-up, where Tahiti qualified for the FIFA tournament, and in the World Cup qualifying squad but has yet to join up with the camp and pull on a shirt for the Polynesian nation.
After 15 years playing professionally in France, the 32-year-old recently made the move to the Greek Super League where he joined Panthrakikos, leaving him unable to accept any call-ups for national service.
Having since settling at his new club, the striker - known as “The Paddler” for his unique goal celebration - is keener than ever to join his fellow countrymen in Brazil.
“I couldn’t go for the World Cup qualifiers because of my transfer to Greece. I had the authorisation of Nancy and the coach John Fernandez to go. But when I was transferred to Greece my new coach refused,” Vahirua says.
“I wanted to give priority to my professional situation before honouring a selection with Tahiti. Now I have already told the club that for the next call-up, I will be going.
“To wear the shirt of my country is very important. Personally, I have nothing else to win. But I do have a chance to participate in a Confederations Cup. Every professional player dreams of playing in one. My country has qualified and I hope I can be there.”
He says to play with Tahiti against Spain at the Macarana in Rio de Janeiro will be an incomparable and unforgettable experience.
“When I saw the draw said Spain, I just thought, ‘Enormous. I need to be there, I need to play that match’,” he says.
“To one day be able to say that we have played against the world and European champions is just huge. I hope with my help we can do something. It’s necessary to be realistic – we’re not going to win the competition – but we will do everything possible to be at the top.”
Now playing outside of France for the first time in his career, Vahirua says after two difficult years in Nancy and Monaco it was time to leave the French championship.
“I want to play in a championship where I can still make a mark before hanging up my boots. The Greek championship is getting better, there is a good level of football,” he says.
“Here I have time to play and I take pleasure in doing my job as a footballer.”
With no intention of returning to the French professional competition, Vahirua now hopes that his eventual retirement will see him return to his homeland.
“After 15 years at a high level I think I have given enough. On the other hand, the more years that pass the more interested I become in a role as a coach,” he says.
“Football is my entire life, I’ve only ever done this so it feels natural for me to try and pass the diplomas and look after young Tahitian talents.
“When we see the qualification of Tahiti for the Confederations Cup it shows that there is a future. It’s also evidence to me that I want to be part of this rising wave – to be one of the people who have helped raise Tahitian football to the level of New Zealand or Australia.”
For many it seems paradoxical that Tahiti will head to the Confederations Cup, with Vahirua as the sole professional player, over countries like New Caledonia or New Zealand, whose squads both feature professionals.
However, Vahirua says being an amateur side doesn’t mean the Toa Aito have been left wanting in the talent department.
“In terms of quality, we are not lacking in it – we have huge potential,” he says.
“The problem is the mentality. It’s not within us to leave Fenua. It’s an enormous sacrifice for anyone, even for me.
“In the beginning I had a lot of problems and was constantly asking myself why I had left everything behind for France where the temperatures are crazy and the mentality is so different to home. But I had to let go of all that in order to succeed.
“I look forward to the day where I can return and share my experience with young Tahitians. To explain to them what awaits them in France.”