There is a reason why Tahiti’s national side were given a hero’s send off from the pitch following their 10-0 defeat to Spain last night and media pundits and football authorities would do well to register it. This was a team that earned the right to play Confederations Cup football and they have played it with a pride that has only added to the tournament.
To hear the likes of Robbie Savage declare that maybe the format needs changing and 10 goal defeats are not what we want to see, with the familiar ring of prejudice in the words “I’m not being condescending but…”, merely demonstrates how far removed the media and powers are from the reality of the game.
Tahiti have been a breath of fresh air. It is irrelevant that they have suffered two heavy defeats so far, that was always going to happen with a team full of amateur players, but they have played with a freedom of expression that would draw scorn in many professional leagues around the world, where survival in the money tree is valued far above sporting integrity, and it has been delightful to watch.
Who knows what impact their appearance on this international stage will have back home? Who knows how many young players will be inspired by their compatriots who have played with a heart, style and passion that refuses to be ridiculed?
Thankfully neither side took to the field with any sense that Tahiti did not deserve their place. The World Champions felt no need to look down on their opponents and David Villa in particular looked determined to grab himself a hat-trick, whilst Tahiti never let their heads drop and continued to put their bodies in the way of Spanish attacks and attempt to counter with composed and intelligent passing and movement.
The previous game between Italy and Japan showed how the latter team has grown over the years to become a serious force in international football. It is by playing in tournaments like this that countries can be inspired to develop and improve and Tahitian football will be the better for the efforts of their players this month.
Sport is about striving to improve, playing with passion and uniting people from different backgrounds and cultures through a common pursuit. Just as fans unite in their support of the excellence of Spain they unite behind Tahiti for the purity of their sporting endeavour. Both deserve their place on the international stage.
Photo by: NASA Goddard Photo and Video