Tahiti’s U-19s inspiring Raiatea

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Taking women’s football to every corner of French Polynesia continues this week with the Tahiti U-19 women’s team going on tour to Raiatea in a bid to boost the game in the Society Islands group.

In 2019 the U-19 women’s team secured third place on their debut at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in the Cook Islands, the first medal placing for a Tahiti women’s team at an OFC tournament in the federation’s history.

As the team continues to prepare for a regional tournament that may or may not eventuate, they’re doing their bit to spread the passion for football to a new generation of rising stars.

Fédération Tahitienne de Football (FTF) Women’s Football Development Officer Stéphanie Spielmann said the week-long trip offers a vast number of opportunities both for the travelling squad, and the Raiatea community.

  • Travel as part of the preparations of the U-19 women’s team
  • Travel as part of the feminisation and the development of women’s football on the island of Raiatea
  • Formalisation of the senior women’s championship on the island of Raiatea
  • Organisation of the first Hine Festival, supervised by the players in the U-19 women’s team
  • Two matches against a selection of the best players in Raiatea

“We had some diverse objectives for this trip. Among our goals was to test the new players and have them all living together, we also told the girls we expect them to play the role of ambassadors for women’s football. We had Kiani (Wong) with us as an ambassador as well.”

Spielmann has been implementing a strategy to ensure women’s football is available to any girls or women who wish to play, no matter where in the vast expanse of French Polynesia they might be based.

The island of Raiatea has an area of 168km2 and boasts a population of just over 12,500, around 4,000 of which are based in the capital, Uturoa.

On Wednesday, despite some poor weather, the Hine Festival took place providing an introduction to the children of the island, boys and girls between 5-15 years old, helping them discover the beautiful game.

“The different sessions are designed to work on technique, but in always in a fun way,” Spielmann told TNTV.

“We offer sessions on getting a sense of the ball, fitness with the ball, an agility course, a Just Play session which works more on the educational side, and then a little speed course.”

Kiani Wong, who currently plays her football in Germany, has been an ambassador of the Hine Festival since its first edition in 2018, and was delighted to be joining her former U-19 teammates in Raiatea to support the growth of the women’s game.

“I spent three years in Frnace, then I left for a year in Cardiff. I played in England and this year I am in Germany,” she said.

“I would love if there were more girls who could leave like me because it is truly an experience to be had. I like it a lot and I find what I am doing very fulfilling.”

Spielmann said overall the trip went well with the team due to return to Tahiti today (Thursday TAH time), having spread the passion for football just a little bit further than when their journey began.

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