Equipped with the ‘best player in the world’, the Tahiti national beach soccer team are aiming for the number one spot in next year’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in the Bahamas.
Heimanu Taiarui was a star for the side, known as the Tiki Toa, when they came second last year to become the highest ranked team in Oceania, picking himself up the Golden Ball in the process.
Now he is determined to help the team secure that top spot.
“We finished fourth in 2013 at home in Tahiti and were second last year. Next year, we go to win. There is no question, we’ll go to the Bahamas to win this World Cup,” Taiarui said.
“In 2011, we played in our first World Cup in Ravenna. We were like strangers, and we didn’t really know how to play beach soccer. But now after five years we have improved a lot. Now we can compete with the biggest teams,” he added.
Taiarui’s confidence stems from his respect for beach soccer coach Angelo Schirinzi, who has applied his years of experience in both football and beach soccer to the development of the side and contributed to the strong reputation Tiki Toa has earnt in the beach soccer community.
“Angelo Schirinzi has helped us a lot.”
“He’s a great man in beach soccer, and I want to thank him,” Taiarui said of the Swiss native.
“The other teams are now starting to fear Tahiti. I don’t want to use the word ‘fear’, but I really do think they fear us a bit.”
Taiarui has also built on his own personal confidence as a result of his own achievement at last year’s World Cup, which proved the Tiki Toa were serious contenders for the champion’s title.
“It’s not something that anybody can win, but I didn’t realise it immediately. It took me months to realise that I had won the Golden Ball,” he recalls.
“My life has changed a lot, I travel a lot, and I play in several different tournaments.
“It was unbelievable, and I thank the Lord for leading me on the right path.”
The team is currently in Switzerland as part of an intensive training camp, but the World Cup runners-up had a quick break from training last Monday to meet FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the international body’s headquarters in Zurich.
The Tiki Toa are currently preparing for two test matches against Japan on 17 and 18 September and the Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup Dubai on 2-5 November, with their eyes set on the Bahamas for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2017.