New Caledonia’s U-16 boys’ team have returned to action on the international stage, making the long journey to Europe to play in a UEFA International Exhibition Tournament.
The team travelled to Estonia, where they took on the U-16 representatives from three UEFA nations – the host nation, Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands.
Manager Didier Blanc took 20 talented footballers to the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Those players were selected from eight teams across New Caledonia – AS Lössi, AS Magenta, AS Mont-Dore, AS Wetr, ASC Gaïtcha, Hienghène Sport, OC Hmeleck and Qanono Sport – highlighting the spread of young talent throughout the nation.
New Caledonia took on a strong Kazakhstan side on Tuesday, April 26, losing 6-0.
In their second fixture, against the Faroe Islands on Friday, April 29, Les Cagous pushed their European opposition all the way. In the end, an 80th minute penalty proved decisive, as they lost a close game 1-0.
Finally, on Sunday, May 1, they faced off against Estonia, with the hosts running out 5-0 victors.
However after months of inactivity, results on the pitch were not the main takeaway from this camp. Instead, the team’s coach Didier Blanc was clearly pleased the group finally had the opportunity to play competitive football again, train regularly as a squad and enjoyed the European adventure.
“The players gave the maximum until the final whistle,” Blanc told the Fédération Calédonienne de Football website after their second game, the 1-0 loss against the Faroe Islands.
“It is true that there are some regrets about this match because we must be able to snatch the draw.
“But we are still seeing progress in the game.
“The players make a big effort every day, we have a very sustained rhythm on a daily basis. Training, recovery, school follow-up, care, with also a debriefing every night.
“We came here to work and progress. The atmosphere is excellent in the group.”
The journey, the competition and overseas experience will undoubtedly have been a major boost for this next generation of New Caledonia football talent.