Solomon Islands have been the first real beach soccer force in Oceania bringing the region worldwide attention in 2006 when they became the first team to fly the OFC flag at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Four-time OFC Beach Soccer champions the Bilikiki have qualified to four more World Cups between 2007 and 2013.
Despite this, their achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by the rise and spectacular global exploits of their Pacific rivals Tahiti for the most part of the current decade, the sport maintained its popularity across the Melanesian country.
Coached by iconic former player Gideon Omokirio, the 2019 squad has arrived in Tahiti for the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup with a clear desire and determination to recapture the glory days of Solomon Islands’ sand-based game.
Under the leadership of their vastly experienced and universally respected captain James Naka and with the likes of fellow beach soccer stalwarts including Nicholas Muri the Solomon Islanders are tipped to be a force to reckon with when the tournament kicks off on June 17 in Papeete.
Omokirio believes his troops are ready to perform on the international stage once again.
“It’s very exciting for us to be playing beach soccer following a few years of absence.
“The last time we’ve played in a tournament like this in 2013, there were only three teams participating, and this time with more teams involved it’s shaping up to be an even better competition,” said the Bilikiki coach.
“Beach soccer was the sport that put Solomon Islands football on the world map and there is a huge interest about tournament back home and all football loving Solomon Islanders will follow our fortunes,” he added.
One of the key players to the side’s success, James Naka is also delighted to be again involved in a major tournament.
And the skipper believes World Cup qualification is a realistic possibility for his side.
“Yes, that is our main objective, we want be back on the world stage.
“We have worked hard preparing for months to achieve our goal, we are ready to play and we have high hopes,” Naka explained.
Omokirio is also optimistic about the chances of his team.
“I’m very happy with our preparations and with the injection of talented, speedy new players into the team, so I’m very encouraged about our prospects,” he said.
The Solomon Islands coach has singled out their match against the hosts and tournament favourites Tahiti as the one to watch.
“Meeting Tahiti again will be a special occasion.
“Tahiti represented our Oceania region with great distinction on the world stage for the past years and it will be exciting to play against one of the best teams in the world,” he said.
– OFC Media