New Caledonia football is in mourning following the passing of former national team goalkeeper and coach Michel Clarque, 72, at midday on Monday, 31 May.
A man with a heart of gold and a strong desire to create meaningful opportunities for youth across New Caledonia both inside and out of the football community, Clarque’s most recent football roles included leading the women’s national team at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, and coaching FC Gaïtcha in the Super Ligue.
Clarque represented New Caledonia from 1974 to 1979 and appeared in two Pacific Games during that time, in Guam in 1975 and Fiji in 1979. Domestically, he played the majority of his football with Saint-Jean Baptiste de Hnatalo and FC Gaïtcha. As a coach, he has worked with Hienghène Sport, winning the Coupe de Calédonie in 2013, FC Gaïtcha and AS Lössi.
The former teacher and school principal also had a stint as the men’s national team coach in 2002 and was a member of the Fédération Calédonienne de Football Conseil Fédéral (Executive Committee) from 2016 to 2020.
He will be most notably remembered, however, for his role in leading New Caledonia’s to a FIFA World Cup for the first time as coach of the U-17 squad during their qualifying campaign in 2017.
To date, he remains the only New Caledonian coach to have led a team successfully through qualification to a FIFA World Cup tournament, and was involved in the final tournament as manager after handing the reins to Dominique Wacalie.
Léon Waitronyie, assistant coach to Clarque during that successful qualifying campaign, said he has incredibly fond memories of a man who gave an incredible amount to the development of football in New Caledonia.
“Michel always gave his all to football. He was a true fanatic, with his strengths and weaknesses like everyone, but his biggest strength was the wholehearted work he did to help advance New Caledonian football, which he loved,” Waitronyie said.
“Of course we will always have incredible memories of what we shared on the pitch. Michel was always there to encourage us. As a player, and also as a coach at Olympique, it was him who took me through my Brevet d’Etat. As a former school principal and teacher, he had a real ease for teaching, especially with young players.
“I recently spoke to him on the phone, his last words to me were: ‘I hope that we see each other really soon on the field’.”
Pasifika Sisters wishes to thank Michel for his contribution to football throughout his life, including his support for the women’s game.
Our sincerest condolences to his family, and the New Caledonia football community following the loss of a great man.
Nos sincères condoléances à la famille de Michel Clarque, et du communauté du football Calédonien après la perte d’un grand homme.