A year ago 21-year-old Joseph Athale could only dream of playing in the prestigious OFC Champions League.
Today he has a key role commanding the centre of Alain Moizan’s AS Magenta and he’s savouring being the small fish in a big pond, surrounded by some of the legends of New Caledonia football.
“I’m originally from Ouvea, one of the three Loyalty Islands,” Athale explains of his roots.
The sandy isle has a total area of just on 132km2 and the youngster said for locals, the opportunity to play top level football are few and far between.
“To play football at this level is rare when you come from Ouvea. But I want to encourage kids from there to use me as an example.
“They can see what I have done and know that they are capable too.”
Athale was approached by Moizan, former France international and former coach of Les Cagous, last year inviting him to join the domestic champions.
“I want to keep learning and improving, that’s why I made the move. The environment at Magenta is very good.
“There are a lot of national team players and you have Alain as coach, plus Pierre Wajoka as the assistant coach.
“It’s hard to ask for more.”
Athale came to prominence with the national U-20 team in 2014, impressing on debut with his technique and vision.
He’s gone on to be a key member of the XV Pacific Games gold-medal winning side and has integrated himself into the senior side.
Athale and AS Magenta are on the verge of qualifying for the semi-finals of the OFC Champions League for the second consecutive year, and he’s hoping this time around his side will have what it takes to make the final.
“I want to win the Champions League and leave a legacy for the club, and encourage the future of New Caledonia football,” he said.
“We saw the U-17 team qualify for the World Cup and that’s a great example for the rest of us. We want to join them on the world stage.”