Ruben Kutran has spent the past six years living over 17,000 kilometres from New Caledonia, but that hasn’t diminished the link to his country of birth.
“I’m always thinking of it even though we’re far away, 17,000 kms – it’s pretty far,” Kutran said of living in Bordeaux, France.
“But I haven’t forgotten where I come from. I’ll always be Kanak and I’ll always be proud of that.”
The 16-year-old made his debut for New Caledonia at the OFC U-16 Championship on Monday against Tahiti, and scored his first international goal against Samoa on Thursday.
Now the FC Girondins de Bordeaux youth player is hoping he can help the side follow in the footsteps of last year’s U-17 squad and qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“I saw that they had qualified and followed their journey at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India,” he said.
“It gave me an even greater desire to come back and play in this tournament.”
Kutran’s move to France six years ago was a family decision to allow his mother to further her studies.
But for the youngster is also signalled an opportunity that doesn’t come to everyone in the Pacific – the chance to develop his football in a European environment.
“In the beginning we moved to France just for my mum’s studies, but afterwards I was playing football and my qualities started to show,” he explained.
“I wanted to show the best of myself in France and now I play there.”
The attacker said the difference between football in Oceania and in Europe is very obvious, however he believes given the opportunity there are plenty of players from the region who could thrive in the European environment.
“The level in France is much higher,” he said.
“In this tournament, in the matches I’ve seen, there are certainly some players who could progress in Europe where the level is much higher.”
While the campaign for New Caledonia hasn’t exactly gone to plan with an opening loss to Tahiti followed by a draw to Samoa, Kutran said the team will give their all in the final group match against Fiji to earn a place in the semi-finals.
“Against Tahiti we weren’t good technically, but against Samoa we were much better,” he said.
“But the defensive block, Samoa came together and defended as an ensemble really well.
“We were fishing in the final third and really needed to be more efficient in front of goal.
“It’s up to us to try and win.”
New Caledonia face Fiji in a must-win encounter at Lawson Tama Stadium on Sunday 16 September at 10am.