Historic European tour wraps for Tahitians

Tahiti national women's team, the Vahine Ura, in Strasbourg. Credit: FTF/Mathilde Durney
Tahiti national women's team, the Vahine Ura, in Strasbourg. Credit: FTF/Mathilde Durney

In a first for French Polynesian women’s football, the Vahine Ura have completed a series of international matches against opponents outside of the Oceania region.

The Tahitian women’s national team, currently holding 104th position in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking, played a two-match series against 118th ranked Luxembourg, losing 5-0 then 11-0, before holding 170th ranked Andorra to a scoreless draw in their final match.

The matches were organised as part of the side’s preparations for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, as the nation looks to shore up its chances of qualifying for its first FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The team were based in head coach Stéphanie Spielmann’s native Strasbourg for the duration of their camp with matches in Stade Molsheim and Stade de l’Aar in Schiltigheim.

A former FC Vendenheim player then coach, Spielmann was keen to use the opportunity to introduce the squad to the rigours of elite football, as well as introduce European and USA-based players into the group.

“It’s the first time, with this trip, that they’ve all been able to come together,” Spielmann said of her squad.

“But I’m delighted because we have found a great group, that’s priceless.”

With an average age of 21, a number of players were leaving the sunny, sandy shores of French Polynesia for the first time and heading straight into a new, much frostier, environment.

“You know, the minimum temperature in Tahiti is 23 degrees,” said 18-year-old defender Hereura Chu, “So for sure, when we arrive here (in France), we were cold!”

Tahiti defender Hereura Chu during training. Credit: FTF/Mathilde Durney

“Against Luxembourg they were facing real athletes against whom even the slightest effort counts, and that’s what I’m trying to instil in them everyday,” Spielmann explained.

The opening match, like those which followed, was an opportunity for Spielmann and the players to identify where they sit against similarly ranked nations.

Kiani Wong, who has been in semi-professional and professional environments in Europe since the age of 16, said there were plenty of positives to take from the opener.

“For me, I think we can be positive because it’s the first match, yes, the score was 5-nil but it doesn’t reflect the match we played,” the FC Saarbrücken midfielder said.

“I can see that we’re capable of doing something really special. We just have some little things to try and rectify, things that are really important in football. Little errors can be costly, as they say.”

After a tough second outing which saw them concede double figures and a second consecutive defeat, Tahiti rallied for their final outing in Europe.

Taking on Andorra, the side shored up their defence improving on their two previous matches and keeping their opponents from breaking the scoreless deadlock.

For young defender Chu, the result could largely be attributed to an impressive showing from 19-year-old goalkeeper Camille André.

“We were really lucky, they (Andorra) had a lot of shots but they weren’t all on target and we also have a great keeper,” she said.

Chu’s response to her teammates performance is indicative of the cohesion the group has developed across the 15 days.

“It’s a beautiful adventure both in a human and sporting sense,” Spielmann said.

“They have all shown great values and solidarity.”

The trip was part of Tahiti’s preparations for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup which is scheduled to be held in July 2022, with the winner set to join the FIFA Play Off Tournament for an opportunity to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia/New Zealand 2023.

Additional reporting: FTF and France Info

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