New Caledonian Football Makes The Headlines
Under the tutelage of French coach Didier Chambaron, New Caledonia have played ten official matches without defeat, an enviable record by any standards. Thanks to the devaluation of matches from previous years, the Caledonians rocketed to 95th place in the September FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the first time they have made it into the top 100. This jump provided Chambaron’s team with a significant confidence boost, although it did not prevent them from losing twice to favourites New Zealand in the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ in September. New Caledonia were defeated 3-1 in front of their home crowd in Noumea on
6 September, and four days later they suffered a 3-0 loss in Auckland. And so New Caledonia’s dreams of participating in their first ever FIFA World Cup™ have been shattered.
Despite this disappointment, there is no doubt that New Caledonian football is on the up and that those involved have every reason to be proud of recent developments. “We didn’t get here by chance. The players have made a lot of progress in recent months. The results have exceeded our expectations,” a proud Chambaron told FIFA.com.
New Caledonia’s recent successes against their Oceanian competitors have certainly earned them respect throughout the region, but Chambaron still feels their achievement has not been given sufficient recognition: “I don’t think the results we’ve achieved have been given the acknowledgement they deserve up to now, and that’s a pity.”
Chambaron sees his role as improving the level of football not only in New Caledonia, but in Oceania as a whole. ” I’ve been in New Caledonia for two and a half years now, and I hope that I will be able to make my own small contribution to the development of football in Oceania as a whole. In any case, that’s what I’m ready to do.”
The Frenchman is also confident that the off-field initiatives currently in place will ensure a genuine change in the footballing landscape of the region. “The President of the Oceania Football Confederation, Reynald Temarii, has put in place a whole series of reforms that will improve the status of football both within and outside Oceania,” he said. “And the projects are not just about the elite players, they concern the education of the youth and the struggle against poverty.”
One of these initiatives has been the creation of a new technical centre in Paita, near Noumea, financed by FIFA’s Goal Programme and opened in May this year. New Caledonia, a FIFA member since 2004 and with only 8,552 registered players, now has a world-class training facility on its doorstep.