Tiki Toa newbie Heirauarii Salem has made a dream debut to life as one of the team.
The 21-year-old not only made his first appearance on home soil but scored his first goal, times two, in their opening match against Vanuatu.
“It gave me a lot of pride just to play in front of the home fans. But to score in front of them too, that’s extraordinary. I’m really happy.”
Two years ago, playing alongside his idols still seemed like a longshot. Passionate about the game Bibiche, as he’s known to those close to him, followed the team to the Bahamas where they finished runners-up for the second time running.
Now, as a bona fide Tiki Toa himself, Heirauarii is hoping to help the squad get as far as possible once more, starting with the Oceania qualifiers.
“Everything is going well so far, we’ve won all our matches which is what we were hoping for. I’m very proud to be part of the team and taking part in this tournament.
“What I like most about this team is the sense of valour that you sense on the field. Respect, friendship, it’s the valour which the coach Naea (Bennett) is trying to convey to us now. I try to respect it.
“I’ve always been, and always will be, a supporter of the Tiki Toa.”
As for whether Tahiti can prevail in their first qualifying campaign since 2011, Heirauarii has no qualms.
“No doubt about it. They’ve proven it already in the last four years. To get to the final of a World Cup once is magnificent. This team has done it twice. So yes, I think they can go all the way.
He’s not the only one with confidence in the team, little brother Hallil is also pretty sure he’ll be seeing his big brother on the global stage.
“Go Tiki Toa and go my brother!”