Tag Archives: Football

A football trip to Spain

Yes, it’s a blog written by me. A rarity I know, sometimes I always feel like writing one, but I have a busy life sometimes and the moment has gone by the time I remember again! So here goes, my first (hopefully of many) football blog in 2017.

Recently I went to three football games in four days in Spain, this time I went with my good friend Emily. A recent suffering supporter of the 1939 & 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth FC. She was employed by me, for a yet to be determined fee, as an official photographer and observer/navigator. It helps she likes watching random football games too I guess.

The first game of the three was the Europa League Last 32 game between Villarreal and Italian team Roma. Now anyone who knows me, knows I am pretty organised when I travel. I like things to go without a hitch, so rewind a few weeks ago and I thought I’d purchase tickets for this game online, you’d think it would be easy but it was definitely not. UK Bank cards are not accepted on their website, only Spanish ones (for ‘security reasons’ apparently). I even rang them up, but was told I would have to buy on the day of the game.

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                                                     A view of Valencia from the Cathedral

Luckily, with the help of Twitter, a Swans fans I know, Tim, contacted his Spanish friend Claudio who bought two tickets for the game, so save me stressing on the day. Phew! Thanks again Claudio, bravo!

I also went against my normal principles and booked my flights with Ryanair, it sounds slightly snobbish I know, but for £40 return from Stansted it was very difficult to refuse. In fairness there were no issues at all with Ryanair. We flew into Valencia, which is about a one hour train journey from Vila-real.

Valencia has some great memories for me and lots of other Swans fans I’m sure, back in September 2013 (when the Swans were actually good), we beat Valencia at the Mestalla 3-0 in our first Europa League Group game. It was one of those rare games when everything was perfect. The weather was glorious, the performance was excellent and we topped it off with a win. Okay they had 10 men for most of the game, but I try to forget that bit!

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                            The Mestalla, home of Valencia and scene of the 3-0 away win

After dropping our bags off at the hotel, Emily and I went for a bit of sightseeing and I reminisced when I saw the Mestalla again (it looks different from before though).  A long day of walking around the lovely town of Valencia, before settling down in an Irish bar to watch the Champions League football on that evening. Arsenal lost 5-1 to Bayern (again) and in the other Spain v Italy European clash, Real Madrid beat Napoli 3-1.

The next day saw us catch a train to Castellon, which is an extremely quiet town just outside Vila-real. There were hardly any people out and about, even after siesta time. After a few pre-match coca colas we caught the train to Vila-real. Again, hardly any sign of any other people or any noisy Roma fans on the 20 minute walk from the train station to the ground.

Villarreal’s ground changed the name of their ground just a month ago. Formally Estadio El Madrigal, it is now called Estadio de la Cerámica (Ceramic Stadium). The capacity is almost 25,000 and has been the home of Villarreal since 1923.

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I quite liked the ground, the pitch is pretty close to the stands and there is one massive stand behind the goal where the Roma fans were situated. We seemed to be in the minority of ‘tourist’ football fans at the game. With a fair few Villarreal fans bringing their own picnic and blankets for the game ahead (it wasn’t that cold really). We were definitely keeping the average age of the stand down, the eldery Spanish ladies didn’t look impressed with the Roma fan’s pyro either. It was quite a slow start to the game, with neither side having real good chances until around the 30 minute mark when Emerson of Roma curled in a wonderful goal to put Roma ahead.

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                                 The obligatory ‘Me at a football stadium really early’ photo

In the second half Roma looked much the better team, with El Shaarawy pulling the strings in midfield. Bosnia and Ex Man City striker Edin Dzeko scored a hatrick and Roma won the game 4-0 in an enjoyable, but one sided game for a neutral. And the kid behind finally stopped kicking my seat and ended up playing a handheld computer game.

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An elderly Spanish lady tried to converse with us, but she couldn’t speak any English and we couldn’t speak any Spanish. A guy in front translated ‘Do you support Villarreal or Roma?’ ‘Tourists or Students?’ But it doesn’t seem the concept of groundhopping has caught on in this part of Spain yet. The guy had heard of Swansea City but not Portsmouth! but they were nice enough. After a short train journey back to Castellon it was onto Barcelona the following morning.

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                                              Villarreal 0-4 AS Roma (Emerson, Dzeko 3)

The train journey to Barcelona takes about 3 hours, but what is good about the trains in Spain (and France when I went to the Euros) is that every person who has bought a ticket is allocated a seat, so no scrambling to get onto an already cramped train (take note Arriva Trains Wales). At least the long journey gave me time to keep up to date with my football podcasts. (The Guardian and the Football Ramble are good podcasts if you’re interested!).

I have been to Barcelona before, when Wales played Andorra away in 2014, I stayed a few days in Barcelona as Andorra has no Airport. It is easy to navigate the Metro system there and with the help of an app and Google Maps we found our Hostel. A lot of people seem to not want to stay in hostels, but personally I don’t see a problem. I have stayed in some nicer hostels for half the price than a bang average hotel in the past.

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                                                 A view from Park Guell, Barcelona

The staff at the ‘Yeah’ Hostel in Barcelona were very friendly and welcoming, the room was a 4 bed dorm which was very clean and spacious, along with secure places to put your personal belongings. For around 15 Euros a night, no-one can complain!

Staying in hostels is a good chance to meet other fellow travellers, I have made some good friends over the years through staying in the same hostel as them. When you’re travelling alone it can help to talk to others for tips and to cure the boredom you sometimes get.

The weather so far had been sunny and around 15-20 degrees, I was happy walking around in shorts and a t-shirt whilst splashing on the sunscreen, yet the locals were wrapped up in their coats and scarves! I get strange looks normally, so nothing unusual there!

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With the rest of the day to spare it was a good chance to do a bit of sightseeing, The Sagrada Familia was a pretty close walk. A Roman Catholic Church designed by the famous Antoni Gaudi, which started being built in 1882 and is due to be finished in 2026 (Which maybe the date the Liberty Stadium will be expanded. Maybe).

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                                                          The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The reason I picked to go to Barcelona was I had never seen a game at the Nou Camp before and I had never personally seen Lionel Messi score a goal. I had seen Lionel Messi play on two previous occasions – The 2014 World Cup Final and the 2015 Champions League Final. I was hoping it would be third time lucky. Barcelona’s game against newly promoted Leganés wasn’t to be played until the Sunday though, so me not being a person to settle for no Saturday game I saw that Gimnástic were playing Numancia in the Segunda Division – both teams have been in La Liga recently.

The other people sharing our hostel room were a husband and wife who lived in Austria, Heidi and Jose, they were also going to the Barcelona game on the Sunday. Heidi seemed to be a big Messi and Barcelona fan and seemed fascinated with the fact I had seen so many games, the Barcelona game would be her first ever live game. It was nice to see someone so excited about going to a football game (I remember those days!).

Saturday arrived and it was off to Tarragona, unfortunately with the train times it wasn’t really possible to have a look around Tarragona, as I’ve heard it’s a lovely place. I think it may have been easier to hire a car and drive, but I have never driven outside of Wales before, so this always seems a daunting task for me, even though I have travelled around Brazil on my own!

There are two train stations in Tarragona, one journey that takes 30 minutes but is a bit out of the way, the other is closer to the town centre but takes one hour and a half. I went for the former, but it was definitely more complicated, as a bus was needed to be caught from the station to the centre then a local bus was then need to be caught to get to the ground.

Emily and I were looking confused at a bus stop and a Spanish guy asked us in broken English where we wanted to go. I said ‘football’ and ‘Gimnastic Tarragona’ and he understood, pointing us to a timetable. By total luck, at this moment a car turned up and the helpful Spanish guy got in, he then asked us if we wanted a lift to the ground. The car had a Gimnastic football scarf on the dashboard, so I took a gamble they weren’t murderers and we both got into the car. Gracias to the two Spanish guys, I did not know their names, but it was a very nice gesture.

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Gimanástic Tarragona’s ground is called the Nou Estadi and parts of the ground are currently being developed for the 2018 Mediterranean Games. Tickets were €30 for a view from the side of the pitch or €15 for behind the goal. We chose to go behind the goal, it’s a quaint little ground and it’s possible to get a view of the game for free from the above motorway (but that does not count as a proper groundhop!)

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                                   The Nou Estadi. Home of Gimnástic Tarragona

Gimnástic are struggling this season in the Segunda Division, after being relegated from La Liga last season. So it was poised to be a good game ahead. Numancia were the better team but for some lacklustre finishing it remained goal-less until a few minutes after the break and Gimnástic scored a great headed goal after great move. The final score was 2-0 and the fans were great in fairness, they even taunted the players after mis-placed passes, which – maybe I’m wrong – but that doesn’t seem to happen outside of Britain too much. Or at least not known in Spanish football culture.

After the game we had to navigate our way back to the centre without hitch-hiking and then onto the train station in the middle of nowhere. We managed to do this, but more by luck really than any actual know-how. If you’re going to go to Tarragona, then hire a car. It’s much easier and definitely less stressful.

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Gimastix 2-0 Numancia – Segunda Division

Sunday arrived and it was the day I may finally get to see Lionel Messi score a goal. The game wasn’t until 20:45, so another day of sightseeing was on the cards. Again it was a lovely, sunny day in Barcelona and I do sometimes think I’d like to live somewhere like this, but I can’t speak Spanish so I’ll have to think of another location. We went to Parc de Montjuic, which I would highly recommend going to. You get wonderful views of Barcelona and some nice walks in the park, if you like that type of thing. Emily was doing well with her photography work, as I do sometimes hate asking random people to take my photo and I don’t really do ‘selfies’.

So onto the final game of our trip to Spain. The Nou Camp would be ground 207 for me, I had been on the tour of it before, but had never watched a game there. I bought tickets very easily through their website, our seats weren’t too high or too low, the cost was – what I thought – was a reasonable €60. The free wifi at the ground was also very good and I really think more stadia should make this available to fans.

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                                             The Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona

The thing that was very prominent at the Nou Camp was the amount of football tourists there, I get that I am probably in this bracket too. But it is very similar to what you see at Anfield, Old Trafford, The Emirates and Stamford Bridge. I always feel it has a big impact on the atmosphere in the ground, the Barca fans behind the ground that were waving the flags were very good. Singing throughout and I wanted to be standing where they were! I wouldn’t personally be happy if Swansea started becoming a club where most of the ground were not really interested in the game.

Lionel Messi scored after 3 minutes, so I can now finally add him to my list of top players I have seen score a goal live. Bale, Ronaldo, Neymar, Ibrahimovic and Itay Shechter are included. Now if only I could see a goalkeeper score a goal, my football ambitions are nearly complete!

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                                                   Happy with the photography here

At this point I was wanting Barcelona to put a hatful on Leganés, especially after their terrible performance in the 4-0 defeat to PSG the previous Tuesday. It didn’t materialise and Leganés were much the better team, creating the better chances. Messi was the only player looking sharp.

On 71 minutes Leganés scored a deserved equaliser and their fans about 2 miles up in the away end started to make some noise. Barcelona invariably scored again after a definite foul on Neymar in the box. Messi duly dispatched the penalty and Barcelona luckily won 2-1 in the end. It was a very uninspiring performance from the home side against a relegation threatened team, Neymar and Suarez were very quiet.

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                             Barcelona 2-1 Leganés – La Liga. Attendance: 63,378

It was easy to get away after the game via the metro, I almost had my phone stolen by a not so discreet pickpocket. Luckily I tend to have my wits about me and automatically, subconsciously had my hand in my pocket when he invaded my personal space and then eventually ran away.

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                        A view from Parc de Montjuic on a glorious day in Barcelona

All in all a great trip, great weather, three new grounds ticked off, no nil-nils and no hitches. Thanks to Emily for being my official photographer on a voluntary basis and putting up with my inane conversations all week. I will be at more random grounds this coming weekend when I travel to Scotland – not for the rugby – to watch the Scottish Messi play for Queen of the South. No cap or sunscreen needed there! Maybe I’ll even write another blog about it.

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                   Me and and a photograph of my photographer Emily Smith (@emilysmithpfc)

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The ’92’ completed and future footballing goals

Last night, on a cold Tuesday night at Barnet, I completed the 92. For those of you who don’t have a clue, it means, I have now watched a game of football at all current 92 Football League grounds. (Until West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium next season, but I want to savour this moment until then!). You can call me sad, crazy, weird, up to you. But it was a personal feeling for me to have accomplished this feat.

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The Hive – The 92 in sight

Obviously it would be better to visit all 92 grounds with the Swans (I have been to 77 with the Swans*), but it’s almost impossible to do this with just 1 club. Some Portsmouth fans at Barnet yesterday were on 91, all with Portsmouth. The majority of clubs don’t go on massive rises and falls so quickly and teams like Arsenal and Everton never get relegated, so if you were a fan of these teams you would never complete it with 1 club.

*I also went to the ‘old’ grounds of Brighton, Chesterfield, Colchester & Rotherham with the Swans

Anyway. My first ever visit to one of the current 92 was on the 6th Spetember 2003 at Yeovil Town’s Huish Park, the Super Swans being their opponents that day. The home team won 2-0 on that occasion, but I remember it was sunny…… I was only 17 then (yes really) and I got the travelling ‘bug’ from then on.  At that stage I never even knew there was such a thing as ‘The 92’ and I had no other interest at the time to watch other random football games.

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Ah those were the days…..!

I’ve been lucky enough to witness the Swans rise from League 2 to the Premier League and was also lucky (or unlucky) to be able to go to the likes of Hartlepool, Carlisle and Blackpool. Places that are extremely difficult and very pricey to get to by train. It was only when the Swans got promoted to the Premier League back in 2011 that I started looking at how many grounds I had left and it was then I made the conscience decision to complete all the grounds. As back then I never used to miss any Swans matches, so playing on Sundays and Mondays would give me more opportunity to complete it.

During the time the Swans got promoted, the likes of Colchester, Brighton and Chesterfield had all had ‘new’ grounds, so I had to visit them. I had already been to Layer Road, the Withdean and Saltergate respectively.

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Fast forward 12 and a half years later and I was so close to achieving one of my (recent) life goals. This season I have been to Brighton, Oxford, Rotherham, Wimbledon and Fleetwood Town, so Barnet’s ‘The Hive’ was my elusive final ground to complete the set. Annoyingly (for me) Portsmouth, Barnet’s opponents, had the audacity to beat Ipswich in the FA Cup 3rd Round, meaning the game would be re-arranged for a midweek rather than be played on a Saturday.

On the weekend I spent a few days in Germany, where I watched 3 Bundesliga games, (so much better than the Premier League, but that’s a blog for another day) and as I like to do things weirdly, I travelled all the way from Heathrow to Swansea on the coach on the Monday, before heading back up to London again the day after. Long story, but never mind.

I had visited Barnet’s old ground Underhill back in March 2012, but a year later they decided to announce a change of stadiums and last season they got promoted back to the Football League.

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Me at Underhill, back in 2012, against Torquay (I haven’t changed a bit)

I arrived my usual early self at The Hive (Barnet’s nickname is the Bees – get it?) but waited for my Twitter friend Emily and her Dad (who both support Portsmouth) to arrive, I was glad to share the experience with people I know on this momentous – okay maybe too strong a word – occasion. They may not have been glad of my company though!

The Hive has a capacity of just over 5600 and is quite bland in all honesty, at least Underhill had a bit more of a (cliché alert) character about the place.

The game was in no way a classic, I really could not watch Barnet every week, they just tried to stop Portsmouth by fouling them at every opportunity. A typical Martin Allen team I suppose. Their goal came in a strange way too, Portsmouth’s throw-in got reversed to a Barnet throw by the referee as the Pompey player was not taking it from the correct place. The ball was thrown in long, a Barnet player was fouled in the box. Penalty. Ex Portsmouth player John Akinde – who was hopeless all night – scored.Barnet6

John Akinde scores the penalty

Portsmouth had all of the ball and all of the play, but failed to make the Barnet keeper work (sound familiar?), as well as simple passes going out of play. They are definitely one of the more frustrating teams to watch (This was my 5th Portsmouth game of the season). It finished 1-0 to Barnet in the end and boos echoed from the away end, but my personal feat had been achieved. Finally. Until August at least.

I can’t prove that I’ve been to all 92 and I probably don’t fit all of the criteria needed on the ‘official’ 92 club – yes there is really an official club – but I don’t care. (Apparently it still counts if you’ve not visited a team’s new ground!) I’ve seen a football game at all of the current 92 Football League grounds, some memorable ones and some I wish I didn’t remember at all (York 0-0 Carlisle for one!). Unfortunately I don’t have all of my tickets stubs either, back in the old days I just used to pay on the gate for a Swans away game. None of this online booking malarkey.

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Proof I went to Barnet at least

I will probably make myself sound old here, but I sort of wish I had a photo of me at all of the 92 grounds, but ‘back in my day’ there were no cameras on mobile phones, not many people really had digital cameras, just those wind along ones and Twitter was something only birds did. (I could always go back again to the grounds and do this I guess….)

I can now tick this off my bucket list, bur I need to find a new challenge. Getting a girlfriend could be up there (but do miracles happen?). Best to stick to a footballing one, if anyone has any ideas, let me know. I will achieve my other aim of seeing Wales play in a major tournament in June (WE QUALIFIED!). Watching a game in every UEFA Nation was suggested to me on Instagram. The UEFA 54? I’ve done 28 already, but it’s difficult to just pop over onto a plane to Kazakhstan! As well as watching a game on every Continent. I don’t think the Penguins have a team in Antarctica, so it would just be Africa left for me on that one.

At least it has given me more time to do other stuff. I quite fancy going to some intense Derbies. Celtic v Rangers, Partizan v Red Star Belgrade, Fenerbache v Galatasaray – though I do value my life somewhat.

Thanks for all of the well wishes on Twitter/Facebook, for some reason some of you have been just as excited as me. I’ll still have to go to any new grounds that get built and any newly promoted team from the Conference (please not Gateshead or Grimsby).

 

Gibraltar become the 54th member of UEFA

It was announced that the small British Overseas Territory attached to Spain are now officially the 54th member of UEFA. It has a population of around 28,000. It will now also be the smallest nation within FIFA, behind San Marino, Faroe Islands & Liechtenstein.

The Gibraltar Football Association was formed way back in 1895 and have applied numerous times to FIFA to become a full member, they were rejected. In 1997 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered UEFA to admit them as a provisional member.

Since 1993 the Gibraltar National team has played in the ‘Island Games’ competing against the likes of Jersey, Shetland, Minorca & Ynys Mon (Anglesey). They have won it once, in 1997, beating Rhodes 4-0.

Currently managed by Allen Bula, their biggest win is a 19-0 win against Sark in 2003. They have one player who currently plays in the Football League, his name is Liam Walker and he plays for Portsmouth. Their national stadium is called Victoria Stadium and the capacity is 5000 and probably one of the nicest settings in Europe too.

98279_ori_victoria_stadiumVictoria Stadium, Gibraltar.

Spain have been the main opposition to the introduction of Gibraltar to UEFA, as they don’t accept Gibraltar as being a separate Nation. Most of their reasons are obviously political and UEFA has announced that Spain & Gibraltar will be kept apart in any forthcoming qualifying group draws. The same as what happens with Armenia & Azerbaijan at present.

Spain have previously said they would stop competing in the same competitions as Gibraltar at International and club level should they be allowed in, but I can’t see that happen personally.

The plus points to Gibraltar being allowed into UEFA are it would be a great place to visit as an away fan, minus the monkeys and a possibility of another team in Europe that Wales would have a chance of beating (I say optimistically!).

WalkerPortsmouth’s  Liam Walker after realising he’ll be facing Germany instead of Ynys Mon

Does this now set a precedence? UEFA say no, as their rule (which I don’t understand if I’m honest), restricts countries that aren’t recognised by the United Nations from becoming members of UEFA. The likes of Basque, Monaco, Kosovo & the Channel Islands to name a few – Gibraltar were accepted provisionally before the rule changed happened.

There are loads of nations In the CONCACAF confederation however that are not recognised by the United Nations, such as Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands – which have the same political state as Gibraltar.

As well as US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are which are politically part of the United States. Whilst looking on Google, the next new member of UEFA could be Greenland. They also play in the Island Games but are planning on building stadia that meet the requirements set by FIFA (Though they could play in the CONCACAF region too, despite being part of Denmark.

There are already many ‘minnows’ within UEFA. San Marino, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands & Andorra are some; it will be interesting to see how Gibraltar fare in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers, they did recently beat the Faroe Islands 3-0 in a friendly but becoming a UEFA Nation could help them. Fair to say it will be a massive step up from playing Sark, Guernsey & Anglesey, to possibly playing Germany, France & Italy.

Also from the 2014/15 season the club sides from Gibraltar, such as Glacis FC, Lincoln FC & Manchester United FC (yes really) are now able to compete in European Competition. They’ll probably get further than the Welsh Premier League sides!

How long before the usual clichés from the usual people come out, such as ‘Gibraltar is a tough place to go’ and ‘There are no easy games in International football’?

But welcome to UEFA Gibraltar, anyway!

Did you know that Estonia were the only UEFA Nation to play all the other UEFA Nations (52) at International level? They’ll be wanting a friendly with Gibraltar soon! (Wales now have 5 Nations to face – Andorra, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan, Lithuania & Macedonia).

Confederations Cup and Tahiti

On the 15th June 2013 the FIFA Confederations Cup begins, a tournament that, since 2001, has acted as the World Cup rehearsal tournament. A way of testing the new stadia, facilities, security etc. Brazil are the hosts this year and for the World Cup next year.

The Confederations Cup invites winners of each FIFA confederation from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia & Oceania, along with a few other nations including the hosts and the World Cup holders. (Some nations have chosen not to participate some years).

Classed as a ‘major’ tournament by FIFA, but many would be hard pushed to remember who won the 2009 competition. Better than the U23 Olympic tournament last year though (Don’t mention GB). Still it will be some football to watch during the summer.

The Confederations Cup was originally called the ‘King Fahd Cup’ (changed to the present name in 1997 after 2 tournaments) which started in 1992. Only 4 teams entered the first tournament (8 enter now) in which Argentina beat hosts Saudi Arabia 3-1.

Euro 92 winners Denmark won the ‘King Fahd Cup’ in 1995. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup scored one of the goals for the Danes in a 2-0 win against Argentina (again in Sauda Arabia).

See the goals here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6620r3jrn9s

Brazil hammered Australia 6-0 in 1997 with hatricks from Ronaldo and Romario, again in the hotbed of football that is Saudi Arabia. Mexico are the only hosts to win this cup when they beat Brazil 4-3 in 1999. France then won the next two Confederations Cup finals 1-0 in 2001 & 2003 beating Japan & Cameroon respectively.

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France celebrate their 2003 win, along with a tribute for ex Manchester City player

Marc Vivien Foe who sadly died at the tournament

In 2005 in Germany, Brazil thrashed fellow South Americans Argentina 4-1 with goals from Adriano (2), Kaka & Ronaldinho and won the 2009 tournament in South Africa by beating surprise finalists USA 3-2.

Brazil have featured in the most Confederations Cups (6 out of 8) and are looking to win their 4th title and their 3rd successive Confederations Cup.

Robinho Ronaldinho 2005Robinho & Ronaldinho celebrating their 2005 Confederations Cup success

The teams in this year’s Confederations Cup are Brazil (hosts), Spain (World Cup & European Cup winners), Japan (Asia Cup winners), Mexico (CONCACAF Gold Cup winner), Uruguay (Copa America winner), Nigeria (African Cup of Nations winner), Italy (Euro 2012 runner up) & Tahiti (Oceania Cup winner).

Yes you did read that last part right, Tahiti are going to be playing in the Confederations Cup! They are in the same group as Spain, Uruguay & Nigeria. Here are a few facts about Tahiti, the National team and how they got there in the first place:

Tahiti is the highest and largest island in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, located 3500 miles from Australia and has a population of around 180,000 and the capital city is called Papeete. I was also told on Twitter the other day that David Essex once sang a song about them, I will not link it as it really not worth listening to – Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you’re curiosity gets the better of you!

The National football team played their first match back in 1952, their current FIFA ranking is: 135 (out of 207), just below Belize, Vietnam & Turkmenistan. The highest they have ever been in the FIFA Rankings is 111 – in 2002. They did win 18-0 once against American Samoa in 2000 in an OFC Qualifier.

They are currently managed by Eddy Etaeta and their current top goal scorer is Teaonui Tehau who has 8 goals for Tahiti, he plays for club team AS Dragon

EddyEddy Etaeta’s barmy army!

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Teaonui Tehau of Tahiti

The 2012 OFC Nations Cup was played in the Solomon Islands, they were hosts for the 1st time. 8 teams entered altogether, the likes of Fiji, Samoa & Vanuatu – I’m guessing my favourite country Tuvalu failed to qualify or failed to get a team together……..

Tahiti won their 1st group game 10-1 against Samoa and won their group with maximum points, New Caledonia (Don’t know what happened to the old one) also qualified for the Semi Finals. In Group B, New Zealand won their group a little unconvincingly with 2 wins and 1 draw and just 4 goals scored.

New Zealand, with the likes of Chris Wood (Leicester), Tommy Smith (Ipswich), Leo Bertos (ex Rochdale) & Rory Fallon (Aberdeen & ex Swan) surprisingly lost 2-0 to New Caledonia in the Semi Final.

Tahiti beat the hosts the Solomon Islands 1-0 to progress to the final, there would be a new winner of the OFC Cup. Australia had won it 4 times and New Zealand 4 times.

In the final Chong Hue of Tahiti scored the winning goal on 10 minutes to win the OFC Cup for the 1st time, see the goals here: (I’m loving the stadium surrounding if I’m honest).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61laxNc_frw

For those of you who don’t know, Australia now play in Asia rather than Oceania as they wanted to play games that were more ‘challenging’. (I do wonder whether Wales could ask FIFA to play in Oceania as we find Europe too challenging)  This has made winning the OFC a little easier of course, but still a great achievement for Tahiti to win and face the big Nations of World football.

Now I personally love an underdog in most sports, I loved the fact that Greece won Euro 2000 at the time, beating the so called ‘better nations’ along the way. On reflection though their football was pretty boring to watch, sending the opposition to sleep was one of their tactics. Their supporters probably didn’t care though.

Tahiti have no chance of winning the Confederations Cup, they’ll probably be lucky to have a shot on target, never mind a goal but it will be a great experience for the players, coaches and the supporters in Brazil. I can’t imagine many of them have played outside of Oceania before or at such great stadia before.

flag-world-tahitiThe National flag of Tahiti

It may not be the World Cup and many people are probably not that concerned who wins it, but for Tahiti it will probably be the closest they will ever get. I will be watching this year’s Confederations Cup to see how Tahiti do, I hope they don’t get humiliated by the teams they play in the group.

Now where can I buy a Tahiti football shirt?

Tahiti will be the 30th different Nation to compete in the Confederations Cup, other nations who have played in it that may surprise you are: Canada (2001), Iraq (2009) & the United Arab Emirates (1997).

 

Tahiti’s Fixtures

Monday 17th June 2013 – Tahiti v Nigeria – 20:00

Thursday 20th June – Tahiti v Spain – 20:00

Sunday 23rd June – Tahiti v Uruguay – 20:00