The 29-year-old returned to Tahiti in 2011 and has gone on to win the national championship title with his club Dragon to qualify for the 2013 OFC Champions League, as well as the OFC Nations Cup with his country to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
As he readies himself and his teammates to take on some of the greatest footballers in the world in 2013, Vallar took some time to talk to about his professional career, his return to Tahiti and how the team is preparing for their journey to Brazil in June 2013.
You left Tahiti for France when you were 15-years-old to play football professionally, what was that experience like for you?
It was very difficult to begin with. To go 20,000km away as a young boy without your parents is very, very difficult – especially for a Tahitian because we are very close to our friends, our family and our island. So the first two years were particularly hard but it also helped forge my character and allowed me to get to where I am today.
Who did you play for in France?
I made my U-17 championship debut at SCO Angers and I was at the Montpellier Training Centre, Montpellier Hérault before playing in Sète. I also spent a little time in Portugal at FC Penafiel. It was a beautiful experience, notably when I headed south to Montpellier where I began to really encounter the world of professional football. Going to France to play is something that I don’t regret.
When did you return to Tahiti?
I returned to Tahiti a little more than a year ago, it wasn’t planned. We had a family project planned in the United States of America but that didn’t work out in the end. I remained in Tahiti and started playing with Dragon in the national league. I started to get back in shape physically and became part of the national side which is very rewarding.
You made your debut for Tahiti at the OFC Nations Cup and led your team to a historic win – can you describe what that means to you?
It is a great satisfaction for me to have contributed to this historic victory at the Nations Cup because as a Tahitian player and a former professional player I feel like it’s a reward for what I have accomplished in the past – even though I could have done better. To be part of the Tahiti selection and especially to be captain and win the title, is something extraordinary. I never thought about it before, but today now that it has been achieved I am incredibly happy.
Has it been difficult going from a professional footballer in France to an amateur in Tahiti and having to juggle work, football and family life?
Yes, it is a complete change going from professional to amateur – it is a totally different world. As a professional you are surrounded by football all day and the rest of the time you spend with your family however as an amateur you have to work like everyone else and put your life to the side and football on another side. It’s not easy, especially as we train and prepare for the Confederations Cup, to combine work, training and family life. It’s difficult to manage it all and I hope that we will be able to find a way for us all to remedy this and concentrate uniquely on Brazil.
The Toa Aito have experienced a slump in form since the Nations Cup can you explain why that has happened?
I think there are two main things that have contributed. In the Nations Cup we were coming out of the championship so we were all in form, we were sharp and physically in-form for the Nations Cup. Following that we have recorded only bad results in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that we spent one month resting – for a month after the Nations Cup we were on vacation so we were missing the pace and competition we had going into that tournament. The second thing that we did in error was that a lot of the players, perhaps even the entire team, were stuck on the Nations Cup result. We saw ourselves as maybe a little stronger than what we were and struggled to regain perspective and start again from zero. I think those are the two things that have contributed to the slump.
So do you now expect the team to be ready for the Confederations Cup in June next year?
I hope we will be. Right now we are in the process of working on the programme and it will be a similar story to that of the Nations Cup in that we will be coming out of the league. What’s more, Dragon will be participating in the OFC Champions League and there is a large part of the current national team who also play for Dragon, so that will provide extra preparation matches for some players. I definitely think we will be ready physically but mentally it could be a different story. We don’t usually play teams of this calibre – these are the best teams in the world – and especially in the stadiums which we will be inside in Brazil. I hope that we won’t be too overwhelmed playing against these footballing stars in huge stadiums but I think that we will be ready.
How is the team preparing?
For the moment we are each training with our respective clubs and playing in our national championship but I think that the coach Eddy Etaeta will start regrouping the players at the beginning of 2013. I don’t have the detailed plans but what is included in the build-up is a trip to Guyane just ahead of our arrival in Brazil.