Photo Credit: OFC Media
For the fifth time, Tahiti will play host to the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup, with the 2023 edition taking place in the French Polynesian capital city of Papeete.
It marks the first time the tournament has been held since 2019, with the 2021 tournament cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosts Tahiti are the reigning champions, having secured the trophy with a dramatic 4-3 victory over Solomon Islands in June 2019. Solomon Islands themselves hold the record for the most titles, having won four of the six championships since it’s inception in 2006.
Beach Soccer itself has a long and rich history in French Polynesia. Tahiti remain the only OFC Member Association to reach a senior level World Cup Final – having done so twice, at the 2015 and 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups – losing out to Portugal and Brazil respectively – as well as a fourth place finish in 2013.
In the Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) rankings, they currently sit in 22nd place, ahead of such footballing royalty as France, Germany and the Netherlands. A remarkable achievement for a nation’s whose FIFA men’s ranking is a more modest 162.
Check out the highlights from the last OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup final in 2019
Unlike many other Pacific island nations, football is the number one sport in French Polynesia, boasting over 146 clubs and more than 11,000 registered players.
Despite the popularity and prominence of beach soccer, Tahiti has enjoyed successful spells in football, both in the Oceania region and worldwide. The national side has been a consistent challenger at the Pacific Games with five gold medals won, the last of which came in 1995 as the hosts.
Women’s football has also enjoyed a period of growth, reflected in the women’s national team achieving their best finish at an OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2022, when they advanced to the quarter-finals, narrowly losing out to the Solomon Islands in a 1-0 defeat.
Tahiti’s proudest footballing moment undoubtedly came in 2012, when the men’s national side defied the odds to win the OFC Nations Cup. With Australia no longer an OFC Member Association, Tahiti became only the second nation to win the trophy, alongside New Zealand.
Alongside the trophy, the victory qualified Tahiti for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup held in Brazil. Whilst they recorded three defeats in their three group matches, it was a historic moment for Tahitian football, as a country with a population of just under 300,000 shared the pitch with footballing giants in Spain, Uruguay and Nigeria.
With the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup back in Tahiti this year, it provides another chance to showcase one of the most passionate and exciting footballing nations in the Oceania region!