Tahiti takes on the world with a band of brothers
Tahiti striker Marama Vahirua and the four members of the Tehau family will represent the differing faces of football in French Polynesia when they play at the Confederations Cup.
Vahirua has made his living in Europe for 15 years, playing for French club Nantes from 1998-2004 and recently in Monaco and Greece, where currently he is on loan to Panthrakikos.
The Tehau family — twins Alvin and Lorenzo, their brother Jonathan and cousin Teaonui — are comparative homebodies. While they can be technically classed as fulltime footballers, playing for the national team and in the Tahitian first division, theirs is only a nominal sort of professionalism.
Born in the Tahitian capital Papeete, Vahirua left his island home in the late 1990s to join Nantes’ youth academy and went on to play for the French club in 111 matches until 2004. He has also played for Nice, Lorient and Nancy. Tahiti is part of the French overseas dependency of French Polynesia.
Tahiti coach Eddie Etaeta selected Vahirua last season in his squad for the Oceania Nations Cup and for Tahiti’s World Cup qualifying matches, but on both occasions his club commitments intervened and he was unavailable. Tahiti wrote to Pantrakikos seeking Vahirua’s release for the Confederations Cup.
“All being well I should be part of the squad,” the 33-year-old told Oceania Football. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for a country like ours.
“It’s the chance to show that Tahitian football can expand beyond the islands and go even further. You can make a living from the game if you work at it and I’d love to see that happen for Tahiti’s players.”
The availability of the Tehaus was never in doubt. They have jointly accumulated more than 60 matches for Tahiti since Alvin and Lorenzo made their international debuts in 2010. In Tahiti’s 10-1 win over Samoa at the 2012 Oceania Nations Cup, they combined to score nine goals.
“I’m very proud to play in the national team with my family,” Alvin said. “We are a unit within the national team. I think it helps the team as a whole.”
Lorenzo added: “We always care about family. I’m happy to play together. It’s taken a long time for us to come together in one team.”
Alvin, Lorenzo and Teaonui played for Tahiti at the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt in 2009 and found themselves out of their depth among some of the world’s rising stars. They learned the hard way how demanding football can be at an international level but now feel prepared to again face some of the world’s top players.
“We didn’t know our level before that,” Alvin said. “We played world stars and theirs was a much higher level than ours. But we learned a lot. It was a rich experience. When we came back, I felt we were much stronger as players and people.”