He’s a safe pair of hands for New Caledonia.
Goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine has been an integral part of the New Caledonian football scene both at club and national level for the past decade.
Ever since his debut appearance at the OFC U-20 Championship 2011 followed by his first senior cap for Les Cagous at the Pacific Games in the same year, the 28-year-old has forged an impressive career littered with awards and achievements both at a personal and team level.
Nyikeine first came to prominence during the 2012 OFC Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands with a string of noteworthy performances that earned him the Golden Glove, awarded to the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
The New Caledonian custodian produced his most memorable display in his side’s shock 2-0 semi-final win over defending champions and competition favourites New Zealand.
Showing plenty of maturity far beyond his age, the 20-year-old keeper repelled numerous All Whites attempts to keep a clean sheet and help his side to advance to the final.
And despite a narrow 1-0 defeat to francophone rivals Tahiti in the title decider, Nyikeine left the tournament with his head held high, a runners-up medal and the top goalkeeper crown.
Having begun his club career with Gaitcha FCN, Nyikeine moved to Hienghène Sport in 2016 where he has taken his game to another level.
Hienghène won the New Caledonia Super Ligue in 2017 and 2019 as they enjoyed a period of domestic success.
The next stop was a continental title and it came in the OFC Champions League in 2019.
Having emerged from Group A undefeated, they beat Fiji’s Ba in the quarter-finals and upset New Zealand’s Team Wellington 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Those results set up a historic all-New Caledonian final when they took the field against AS Magenta in Noumea on May 11, 2019.
Only one goal separated the sides courtesy of Amy Antoine Roine, which gave Hienghène a famous 1-0 win.
Nyikeine made a handful of important saves late in the match to keep his team in the contest and he received another Golden Glove award.
“Of course I’m really touched to be elected the best goalkeeper. You have to be prepared for matches like this and I was,” Nyikeine said after receiving the award.
“For now, no, I don’t think it’s sunk in that we’ve qualified for the Club World Cup. Maybe later, but right now, no.”
This win saw Hienghène make their maiden appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup late last year.
In June 2019, Nyikeine took his talents to the beaches of Tahiti as a member of New Caledonia’s squad for the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup.
New Caledonia were making their second appearance at the tournament, having previously won a silver medal at the 2013 edition.
They struggled in pool play losing three of their four matches but flexed their muscles against Tonga with a 10-1 victory.
The best was yet to come though as they edged Vanuatu 8-7 in extra time in the bronze medal match to earn another podium finish.
Nyikeine’s crossover to beach soccer showed the talent he has and there’s plenty more to come for New Caledonia’s safe pair of hands.