The first OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup was held in 2006.
In the past 14 years the game has evolved in Oceania, particularly in Tahiti where the Tiki Toa have become one of the world’s best teams; Tahiti and the Solomon Islands are the only countries that have claimed Oceania beach soccer honours.
The Solomons won the inaugural tournament in 2006, defended their title a year later and also emerged victorious in 2009 and 2013. Tahiti won their maiden OFC crown in 2011 and triumphed on home sand last year.
The OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup has been contested six times and is scheduled to take place every two years in the future to fit in with the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup cycle. The winner of the Nations Cup qualifies for the World Cup.
The OFC tournament has a collection of interesting facts attached to it. It was originally called the OFC Beach Soccer Championship before the current name was adopted last year.
In 2007, New Zealand hosted the Nations Cup in Auckland and that remains the only time they have entered.
The Cook Islands played in 2006, where they finished fourth, but have not returned since while Fiji only appeared in 2009 and 2011. New Caledonia have entered twice, hosting the event in 2013 and earning a bronze medal in the most the recent instalment.
Tonga made their beach soccer Nations Cup debut last year as five teams took part, the biggest turnout to date.
The 2019 event marked a return to action following a six-year hiatus for the tournament and OFC’s Acting Head of Football Development Paul Toohey said they wanted to expand.
“It is great we have five teams involved, but we want to grow the sport. Our aim for 2021 is to have at least eight teams,” Toohey said last year.
“But this is a fantastic start. Oceania players are born on the sand, beach soccer is our game.”
The Solomon Islands, known as the Bilikiki, are the only team to have competed in all six editions of the beach soccer Nations Cup but that comes with a footnote.
In 2013, Tahiti didn’t play because they were touring Europe ahead of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup that was hosted in Tahiti.
The World Cup marked the first time a Pacific Island nation had hosted a senior FIFA event.
Winning the Nations Cup in 2013 meant entry to the World Cup alongside Tahiti, and the Solomon Islands triumphed in the abbreviated OFC tournament, beating Vanuatu and New Caledonia to book their place at the global showpiece.
“We really wanted to go to this World Cup because it’s in our region, we know Tahiti, we know the weather, so we are ready to progress to the next stage,” Solomon Islands beach soccer coach Gideon Omokirio said at the time.
Tahiti would go on to thrill their home fans as they finished fourth at the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, while the Solomon Islands exited in the group stages.
Tahiti have since gone on to finish second at the 2015 and 2017 World Cups. Tahiti and the Solomons have each appeared at the World Cup five times.
Vanuatu are also regulars at the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup, having competed five times, earning three silver medals in the process.
The only tournament they missed was in 2011 when Cyclone Atu struck and they were unable to board their flight, which forced them to withdraw.
The next OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup is expected to be held in 2021 with the location yet to be determined.