Tahitian Madness – The Miracle Goal

Highlights of the match between Tahiti and Nigeria at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Tahiti score their lone goal of the tournament around 2:22 and celebrations and replays continue until 2:50 (FIFATV, 2013).

In 2012, Tahiti became the only nation other than Australia or New Zealand to win the Oceania Football Confederation Nations Cup. By doing so, they qualified for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, having the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world from Spain, Uruguay, and Nigeria (FIFA.com, 2017).

No one expected Tahiti to win a match at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Not many expected them to even qualify for the tournament. All but one member of their squad were amateurs because most players had other full-time occupations. As a result, Nicolas Vallar, their captain, claimed that the team “[tried] to make [the tournament] fun for [them] and the fans” (FIFA.com, 2017). They knew they had no chance to win, but they would come to Brazil and play fair football against players they had admired from afar.

However, the small island’s dream of playing in the major international tournament became even more surreal when Jonathan Tehau scored the nation’s lone goal of the tournament in the 54th minute against Nigeria. Nigeria’s goalkeeper was poorly positioned against an incoming corner kick, allowing the ball to soar over him and bounce from Tehau’s head into an open net (FIFATV, 2013).

The score was now 3-1 to Nigeria. Nevertheless, Tahiti celebrated as if they had won the tournament. The team’s coach jumped jubilantly as the stadium roared. The underdogs had already earned a special place in Brazilians’ hearts, making it sound as if the host nation had scored. The players screamed and quickly hugged each other, celebrating by pretending to row in a boat (FIFATV, 2013). Note that Tahiti was still losing by 2 goals to a dominant Nigerian team and eventually lost 6-1. But it did not matter. Tahiti had a team of men that were simply living their dreams. Unsurprisingly, their nation was proud of that goal as well.

https://twitter.com/TahitiFootball/status/346721879190548480

https://twitter.com/TahitiFootball/status/346722347346178048

Tehau’s goal and the reactions that follow it exemplify some of the key values behind football. Firstly, the sport promotes coexistence. It was admirable to see Brazilian fans support an island nation that they probably never heard of until this tournament. In fact, at 2:36 in the video, the camera captures a man on the left wearing a Brazil jersey, but still cheering that Tahiti scored the goal (FIFATV, 2013). Moreover, the goal shows that winning is not always the “goal” in a football match, even in such a major international tournament. Most of the Tahitian players were amateurs and played the sport recreationally back home, enjoying it alongside their full-time jobs. On a major stage, they showed the fundamental purpose of football – having fun and enjoying the experience. Clearly, with the goal and its ensuing celebrations, the players were having the time of their lives and had rowed to success.

By Noor Tasnim ’18

Citations

FIFA.com. (2017, April 26). When little Tahiti lost like lions. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from http://www.fifa.com/confederationscup/news/y=2017/m=4/news=when-little-tahiti-lost-like-lions-2880623.html

FIFATV. (2013, October 23). Tahiti 1:6 Nigeria, FIFA Confederations Cup 2013. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgghE8VJB9I

TahitiFootball. (2013, June 17). GOAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TAHITI!!!!!!! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!! #NeverGiveUp Tehau HERO!!!!!! [Tweet]. twitter.com/TahitiFootball/status/346721879190548480

TahitiFootball. (2013, June 17). #GOTAHITI #WEARETHECHAMPIONS #IBELIEVEINTAHITI #TAHITSON #CONFEDERATIONSCUP [Tweet]. twitter.com/TahitiFootball/status/346722347346178048