Confederations Cup - Tahiti capture Olympic spirit by taking part

Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta embraced some of the old Olympic spirit of just taking part after his side made their debut in a major international tournament with a 6-1 loss to Nigeria at the Confederations Cup.

Reuters
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Tahiti's players before the start of the Confederations Cup match against Nigeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte (AFP)

There was never much doubt the African champions would beat the South Pacific amateurs who qualified as Oceania champions and did their confederation proud by playing well, scoring a goal and winning the hearts of the Brazilian crowd.

"We may be amateurs but we have approached this like professionals, we have worked like professionals and just to take part and be here today was something very special," Etaeta said.

"Normally we just watch big events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games on TV but today we were here, actors on the stage in an important match in an important tournament.

"When the national anthem was played I just felt it in my heart, I thought I was going to cry I was so proud."

Despite conceding six goals, and in reality Nigeria could have scored more but for some profligate shooting and some fine work by goalkeeper Xavier Samin, Tahiti were not embarrassed or humiliated.

The 20,000 crowd at the impressive Mineirao stadium immediately showed their allegiance for the underdogs and they cheered them from almost the first kick to the last.

The cheers were loudest for Tahiti's only professional, Marama Vahirua and for Jonathan Tehau, who scored Tahiti's goal from a header early in the second half.

Tehau, who works as a delivery driver, said he was staggered by the crowd cheering for his team.

"The Brazilian fans were amazing, and of course I was delighted to score, but the goal was not just because of me, it was because of team work," Tehau said.

"I didn't really think of anything after scoring apart from thinking about my parents and my grandparents. But it was a very special moment for the whole country."

Tahiti were exposed in defence where Nigeria broke through almost at will and Etaeta said they would need to be "more mature and stronger" when they play world champions Spain at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

"No matter what happens against Spain and Uruguay we are here," Etaeta said.

"When we left Tahiti to be honest it was not such a big deal for the public.

"But I have just heard the Government stopped a cabinet meeting to watch the match on TV and now everyone is talking about us.

"We have plenty of hard work to do before Thursday, but right now, we are living a fairytale.

"We have improved the visibility of our country, and we want to bring more honour to Tahiti if we can."

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