Distance no issue for ambitious Vahine Ura

  • Tahiti’s national women’s team complete their first European tour

  • Team are preparing for OFC qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • The Vahine Ura are receiving FIFA support for the development of the women’s game

With the kick-off of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ now just under 500 days away, the tournament is generating growing excitement across the globe. Nowhere is the sense of anticipation greater than in Oceania, one of two confederations that will co-host the big event.

This July’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 will serve as the regional qualifying competition for the world finals. Taking part will be Tahiti, who are doing all they can to boost their chances of reaching the World Cup for the very first time.

The road ahead is a long one. There is no automatic qualification for the winners of the Oceania qualifiers, who will have to win an intercontinental play-off to book a place alongside the world’s best. The Vahine Ura have already embarked on their journey, however, travelling 15,000 kilometres in February to contest their first international matches in three years.

The Pacific islanders’ trip took them to France, where they spent two weeks taking part in a training camp and playing three friendlies. It was their first ever visit to Europe, a historic step on what they hope will be a ground-breaking journey to the World Cup.

Tahiti Women's Football National Team during their training camp in France - February 2022

Improvement the name of the game

It was also the first time the Tahitians had come up against teams from outside Oceania, with the women’s national teams of Andorra and Luxembourg (on two occasions) providing the opposition. The purpose of the trip was to find out where Tahiti stand in the international pecking order without necessarily setting their sights too high.

Their three-match tour ended with 5-0 and 11-0 defeats to the Luxembourgers and a creditable goalless draw against the Andorrans. But as far as Tahiti’s French coach, Stephanie Spielmann, is concerned, their French tour can only have a positive impact on the development of her players.

“It was the first time our women’s national team has been in Europe, so it was a little piece of history for us,” said Spielmann, whose side played their three games in her native region of Alsace. “We had a few objectives with the training camp, the main one being to make progress, especially in terms of our work ethic, because you have to work hard to succeed. That’s what we wanted to get across to the players so that they can then instil that in the next generation of young players who come into the national team.”

Major support and a dream to match

Although a place at Australia & New Zealand 2023 is the short-term goal, Tahiti are looking to develop their women’s football in the years to come, a task in which they have the solid backing of FIFA and the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). World football’s governing body funded 60 per cent of the costs of the training camp, thanks to its Covid-19 support package, part of which is allocated to women’s football. The remaining 40 per cent of the costs was covered by the OFC.

“We are truly grateful to FIFA for its support in developing the women’s game in all its forms,” added Spielmann. In addition to funding, the training camp received media coverage and a trip to FIFA’s offices in Paris was also arranged.

The Tahitian players, most of whom play in Polynesia, were also invited to watch Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team train, giving them the chance to meet their heroes, among them France internationals Grace Geyoro, Sakina Karchaoui and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann, and Sweden’s Amanda Ilestedt. The Tahitians are no doubt hoping that they will rub shoulders with them again on the global stage next year.