Tahiti’s senior women’s football team hasn’t appeared in an OFC Women’s Nations Cup since 2010 but they are gearing up to make a major comeback.
Over the past six months Stephanie Spielmann has been working hard to put together a competitive team to take part in this month’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup.
The journey for the Vahine Ura began with Spielmann linking with local clubs, running the players through physical and technical drills to whittle the group down to forty players.
For the two friendly matches against Cook Islands earlier in the year, the team was cut to 25 before Spielmann finally settled on a group of 19 to take part in just their second-ever Women’s Nations Cup.
Having been absent from the regional stage for seven years – their last appearance being the Pacific Games in New Caledonia in 2011 – Spielmann is avoiding comparing her side to their Pacific opponents.
“Certainly, New Zealand as 20thin the world is the giant of the competition, on the other hand, we went kick-for-kick with Cook Islands,” she explained.
“We’re somewhere between the two, the Nations Cup will help us to clarify our position.”
While the OFC Women’s Nations Cup serves as the qualifier for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, for Tahiti that’s not the primary objective.
“One of our principle difficulties is this tournament is giving these players a taste of the competition, and they’ll have to familiarise themselves with the rigours of this level of football.
“Catching up on seven years without competition in six months is a difficult task, but I’ve had a solid staff behind me and our players are determined and courageous,” she said.
“The group Tahiti has been drawn in is difficult, but we’ve already achieved some great things in six months. I’m confident in the girls to give their best and represent the country in the best manner possible.”
Tahiti will get their first chance to put that hard work into action with they take on their hosts New Caledonia on Sunday 18 November at Stade Yoshida in Koné.