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Tahiti show that football still has a place for tales of the unexpected

The Fifa Under-20 World Cup jacket, which gets under way this week in Egypt, likes to present itself as a discoverer of future international superstars. The likes of Diego Maradona, Lus Figo, canada goose coat 1000 calorie a day meal plan Ronaldinho, Michael Essien and Lionel Messi all came to global prominence in this competition.

It is against this lustrous backdrop that a group of young men from Tahiti are taking an extraordinary bow. They are the first team from one of Oceania’s tiny island nations to ever qualify for the finals of a major tournament. They are a sporting miracle.

The country has no great footballing heritage of which to speak. Tahiti sit 189th in the latest Fifa rankings, tucked in between Djibouti and St Lucia. There are only 9,796 registered players in the whole place (to put that into perspective, the island is a semi-autonomous territory of France, which has not far off two million).

On Friday night in Cairo they will emerge shoulder-to-shoulder with amazon canada goose parka the team from Spain (another point of perspective: the population of Tahiti is roughly the equivalent of Albacete). best canada goose jacket review They know they might be embarrassed C that the world expects them to look like novices compared to the highly tutored opponents from one of Europe’s great production lines. They realise they are likely to be patronised or shown sympathy. But the beauty of sport is in that wafer-thin possibility that they will be celebrated.

It has been an amazing journey so far for the Tahitians. They qualified at the expense of New Zealand, who ought to have a monopoly on the routine Oceania berth doled out for all Fifa competitions since Australia defected to join the Asian confederation. Tahiti owe a considerable amount to the inspiration buy canada goose jacket winnipeg of their formidable coach, Lionel Charbonnier, an unused goalkeeper in the France squad during their World Cup triumph in 1998, who has a big heart and unquenchable commitment.

He admits people thought best ideas about canada goose outlet on pinterest he can i wash my canada goose coat was barmy to take on such a job, but the idea of giving something back to the amateur game he came from struck a chord. “The players have met our expectations by 200%,” he says. “They’re happy we treat them like professionals. Some of them are still quite wide-eyed, but most of them are starting to look more serious and adopting a warrior’s stare.”

They learned a lot through participating as a team in the Tahitian league, buy canada goose jacket in canada playing every week against senior opposition. The next best canada goose jacket reddit stage of their development took them to a training camp in Europe. Charbonnier, who played most of his professional career at Auxerre, took the squad for an intensive course at Avallon, where his old club used to prepare for major fixtures. “We wanted to show the players what it’s like at the top,” he said. “I’m proud to see how my players’ attitude buy canada goose jacket uk makes them so much stronger, even though they aren’t extraordinarily gifted technically.”

While Charbonnier admits his team are rank outsiders in a group that contains Spain, Nigeria and Venezuela, he nurtures quiet hope for another tale of the unexpected. “We want to show that there are some values in the game that buy canada goose jacket ebay can move mountains.”

Michel Platini, the advocate of expanding opportunities for smaller countries in the name of romance, is not universally popular among the game’s big shots. Some people don’t want to waste their time in mismatches against minnows. Some people think football only matters when it is ber-professional. Some people just can’t handle the fact that there is no space for Argentina, who failed to qualify, while some has to be made for French Polynesians who nobody imagines can possibly light the place up. But for the rest of us, Tahiti’s presence among the top 24 countries in the world in their age-group is a miracle worth seeing.