With 146 clubs and more than 11, 000 registered players, football is far and away the most popular sport among the inhabitants of French Polynesia.
Marama Vahirua is one of Tahiti’s most famous footballers having made a name for himself in France with first division club Nantes, he made his international debut in 2013 at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. Following his professional retirement he returned to Tahiti where he has continued his involvement in the game and its development.
Fédération Tahitienne de Football (FTF) was founded in 1989 under the leadership of Napoleon Spitz and went on to become affiliated with FIFA in 1990 and a member of OFC the same year.
Major successes for Tahitian football have included the territory’s first ever qualification to a FIFA finals tournament in 2008 when the U-20 national team became champions of Oceania. A second appearance followed ten years later when the nation appeared at the 2018 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
Tahiti’s performances at other age-group level tournaments have been encouraging, the women’s U-20 side of 2019 finished third in their first appearance at the OFC qualifier tournament in the Cook Islands, while their club representatives are competitive in regional competitions.
Papeete-based club AS Tefana reached the final of the 2012 OFC Champions League (formerly the O-League) but one of the French territory’s proudest moments on the international stage arrived shortly afterwards when coach Eddy Etaeta led the national team to an historic title triumph at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.
The win made Tahiti the first Pacific Island nation outside of Australia or New Zealand to become champions of Oceania and earned a place at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
In 2013 the territory hosted the hugely successful FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, a milestone for the region as they became the first Pacific Island nation to host a FIFA tournament.
They also captured local hearts when they finished in fourth place. This impressive feat was topped when they laid claim to the silver medal at the 2015 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Portugal, becoming the first Pacific Island nation to contest a FIFA World Cup final in the process. In 2017 they repeated this success in the Bahamas to cement their place as one of the leaders of the sand-based game.
Locally, FTF continues to run a well-organised club structure that includes divisions catering for all age-groups and genders.
President Thierry Ariiotima, also OFC Vice-President, was re-elected to the position in October 2019 and continues to work with his executive committee and staff to promote, develop and grow the game across the entire territory, with a particular focus on the women’s game.