Don’t count out the Solomon Islands in a game of futsal.
Even if their men’s national team is down by multiple goals, they won’t give up.
Kurukuru are the dominant force on the futsal court in Oceania and are the current OFC Futsal Nations Cup titleholders.
The tournament was first played in 1992 – originally dubbed the OFC Futsal Championship – and has been held 12 times.
The Solomons are six-time champions but their victories in the 2011 and 2019 finals stand out.
On both occasions they found themselves down on the scoreboard but their will to win and desire to fight back is one of the things that sets them apart.
In Fiji in 2011, Kurukuru were behind 4-1 in the second half of the tournament decider against Tahiti before a hectic period towards the end of the game saw them triumph 6-4.
Captain Elliot Ragomo – who won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the 2011 tournament – scored four goals in the final as part of a stunning individual performance.
“It feels amazing, this is our dream,” he said after the final whistle. “We have worked hard for this and we really deserve it.
“We lost concentration in the first half and didn’t expect they would do such quick counter-attacks.
“But we knew what we were going to do in the second half and used our speed and power to get back into the game. Once we scored a couple of goals, we knew we would go on to win.”
Roll forward eight years and the Solomon Islands found themselves trailing 4-2 in the final of the OFC Futsal Nations Cup against New Zealand in New Caledonia.
Despite being behind, Kurukuru never gave in and they fought back to level the contest at 4-4, as the equaliser came with 20 seconds left.
The Solomons scored once in extra-time – the only time in the game they held the lead – but the Futsal Whites went on to make it 5-5 and the match went to penalties.
Kurukuru triumphed on spot kicks and earned their place at the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup as Oceania’s representative. The World Cup is scheduled to take place in Lithuania later this year but may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ragomo said these come-from-behind triumphs in the OFC Futsal Nations Cup finals showed the heart of his team.
“Futsal in the Solomon Islands has a lot of passion and when we play here, even though we don’t have any proper facilities, with no proper international size courts or gymnasium, everyone plays to win and I can see that wining mentality in everyone.
“I remember well the two comebacks we pulled off against Tahiti and the Futsal Whites. I’m fortunate to be part of history for Kurukuru and I think we have a nothing-to-lose mentality in which we will fight until the end knowing only the pride of wearing our national colours matters, nothing else.”
The Solomon Islands also qualified for the past three editions of the FIFA Futsal World Cup and while they’re yet to make a splash at the global tournament, nobody can doubt their fighting spirit.
“To captain Kurukuru comes with great responsibility and I take pride in the job and I am so proud leading my country,” Ragomo said.
“For me, being captain of Kurukru brings so much joy and happiness expressing the God-given talent and purpose he has for my team and my country.”