This month marks 10 years since one of the greatest international futsal matches played in Oceania.
The final of the OFC Futsal Nations Cup in 2011 – branded the Oceanian Futsal Championship at the time – will long be celebrated in the Solomon Islands.
Played in front of a packed arena in Suva in Fiji, the Solomons needed all of their skill to get past a determined Tahiti team.
The scene was set earlier in the tournament as the Solomon Islands only managed to scrape past Tahiti 1-0 in their Group B encounter.
The Solomons had entered the event as heavy favourites and Tahiti pushing them to the limit showed the mighty Kurukuru could be tested.
Both teams emerged from their pool with the Solomons breezing past Vanuatu 13-1 in the semi-finals, while Tahiti edged New Zealand 5-4 on penalties after their final four clash ended 1-1.
This brought us to the final, which took place on May 20, 2011.
Having survived some early waves of attack and with the scores level at 1-1, Tahiti produced three quick goals leaving a stunned Solomon Islands team down 4-1 at halftime.
OFC Head of Football Development Paul Toohey attended the tournament a decade ago and said the final remained a vivid memory.
“It was total shock at halftime,” Toohey said. “The crowd was really into the game.”
The Kurukuru enjoyed strong support in Fiji courtesy of a group of students from the Solomons who were studying in Suva.
With a large deficit to overcome, the Solomons turned to their superstar quartet of Elliot Ragomo, James Egeta, Jack Wetney, and Micah Lea’alafa.
That group of players sparked the turnaround as they kept Tahiti scoreless in the second spell and emerged with a 6-4 win as they claimed their fourth consecutive OFC Futsal Nations Cup title.
“It feels amazing, this is our dream,” Ragomo said after the final whistle. “We have worked hard for this and we really deserve it.”
Ragomo’s heroics were rewarded with the Golden Ball as player of the tournament, while he was also the event’s leading goal-scorer. Catch the highlights of the final below.
The tournament was Toohey’s first official overseas assignment with OFC and he was commissioned to complete the technical study of the on-court action; he left Fiji with a great appreciation for the Solomon Islanders.
“I think it says a lot about the composure and the experience and the mentality of some of the Kurukuru’s experienced players,” Toohey said.
“They’re high-quality players who can be in that moment and not lose their composure.”
The victory also punched their ticket to the FIFA Futsal World Cup that was held in Thailand in 2012 but the Solomons were unable to advance from the group stages.
Following their 2011 triumph, the Solomon Islands went on to win the OFC Futsal Nations Cup in 2016 and 2019, making them the most successful country in the tournament’s history.
The 2011 event was also notable as OFC Associate Member Kiribati made their maiden appearance and despite being unable to advance from their group, they beat Tuvalu 3-2 in the playoff for seventh place.