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The OFC has an excellent record

Name: Reynald Temarii
Born: 2 June 1967 in Papeete (Tahiti)
Career as a player: 1988-1990: Nantes (France), 1984-1995: 11 international appearances for Tahiti.
Honors as a player: Gold medal in the South Pacific Games (1993 and 1995).
Professional career: 1991-1997: sports consultant to the President of French Polynesia. 1997: elected president of the Tahitian football association. 1998-2004: minister for youth, sport and social affairs in Papeete. 2004: elected President of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). 2004: appointed to the FIFA Executive Committee as an observer. 2007: unanimously re-elected OFC President.
Miscellaneous: Temarii is divorced and has five children.

On 2 June, Reynald Temarii will be celebrating his 40th birthday. The former professional footballer turned Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) President and future FIFA vice-president talks about the past, the present and the future of football in his region.

Question: The OFC celebrated its 40th anniversary last year …
Reynald Temarii: … in fact, our confederation was founded in 1964, but it was not until 1990 that we were recognized by the FIFA Congress – so we’re actually 42 years old. Looking back over the years, we have an excellent record. My predecessors managed to create an identity for the OFC and obtain the status of a confederation especially thanks to the support of Joao Havelange. I can say that 37 of the past 40 years were calm, only the period from 2000 to 2003 was difficult due to political instability and inconsistent management. My election in 2004 at the head of the confederation helped re-establish, on the one hand, unity among our members and my good fortune to have gained unanimous re-election as OFC President in January illustrates this new era of unity. On the other hand, this was also enabled the OFC to adopt a development programme, a vision of a future together.

Q: Nevertheless, you have also had to deal with many difficulties …
Reynald Temarii: No problems are insurmountable, or at least none that we cannot tackle as long as we are creative, well organized, determined and responsible. We are in the process of launching, in early July, the four-year “Win in Oceania with Oceania” programme, which will reinforce our assets and amend our shortcomings. Besides, this development plan, which integrates 15 football programmes, will confer upon football in Oceania an active status in national youth, public health and social policies.

Q: Could you maybe give an example to explain the project in more detail?
Reynald Temarii: This project takes into account demographic, economic, social and cultural realities in the region and the priorities in terms of action plans implemented by international or regional organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union or the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The implementation of our fifteen football programmes defined together with FIFA will be carried out by our associations and their assessment will be jointly managed by the OFC and FIFA. Depending on the priorities of our partners, they will be closely associated to our projects either financially or through the participation of their experts. Let’s take “football and health promotion” … the child mortality rate in Europe is 5 for every 1,000 children. In Oceania it is 72, so more than ten times higher than European countries. The percentage of youngsters suffering from obesity is far higher than in Europe. So, from 2008, we will add one to two hours dedicated to health matters and the diseases that plague our people to all of our educators’ training sessions.

Q: What is your view on Australia’s decision to move to the AFC last year?
Reynald Temarii: I totally supported the switch of the Football Federation of Australia to the Asian Football Confederation. I was convinced that FIFA should allow Australia to play at higher levels of competition, which one the OFC could not provide. My conviction is notably based on Australia’s results in the last three or four Olympics that saw them ranked among the five best sporting nations in the world. Besides, the departure of Australia will contribute to the emancipation of the other football nations of the region as New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. Having said that, these associations will need ten to twelve years to build themselves on the international stage. But I am confident in their capacities as long as the FIFA Executive Committee, on the one hand, is aware and give the strongest countries in the OFC the time to meet the challenge, and on the other hand, that it recognizes the need to adjust the criteria for OFC qualifications for various World Cups.

Q: The OFC currently has only eleven member associations. Will it one day merge with the AFC?
Reynald Temarii: The OFC will disappear and be swallowed up by the AFC. Our regional, social or sport concerns would be deemed in comparison to the huge economic stakes of the major countries in the Asian confederation and that would be detrimental to the countries of Oceania. It is now the responsibility of our sport leaders to be up to the task and to face up to the numerous challenges ahead of us.

Q: Has Australia’s move to the AFC more or less handed New Zealand victory in OFC competitions and guaranteed the nation’s qualification as a result?
Reynald Temarii: I would rather say that New Zealand Soccer has assumed the leadership role. However, they are not dominating the OFC to the same extent as Australia did over a 40-year period. And in three or four years, their rivals in Oceania will have caught up and our competitions will be more interesting and attractive. Now in its first year, our champion clubs’ tournament, the “O-League”, has already increased the number of spectators ten or fifteen times more.

Q: In 2008, New Zealand will again be the setting for a FIFA tournament, the U-17 Women’s World Cup. Are other associations in Oceania potential hosts for future FIFA events?
Reynald Temarii: Yes, Tahiti would be capable of hosting the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2010, New Caledonia likewise with the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2012.

Q: Will being a FIFA vice-president strengthen your position?
Reynald Temarii: My appointment as a FIFA vice-president at the next FIFA Congress on 30 May 2007 will surely benefit the OFC with increased consideration in the region and on the world stage. However, respect must also be acquired through the quality of work and sporting results.

Q: What are your key concerns as OFC President?
Reynald Temarii: Our organization must show that we deserve our status as a confederation. This must be achieved both through professionalising our administrations – and by raising the level of our sporting results. Therefore, my project is simple: make football valuable to the community by being a stakeholder in national development programmes in our countries by working in partnership with the authorities, the public and private sectors and the media.

Q: How can football’s standing in Oceania be raised?
Reynald Temarii: As I previously said, on the international stage, we need to obtain better sporting results and at a regional level, we have to be up to the social, cultural and economic challenge.

Q: Which overseas leagues are the most popular in Oceania?
Reynald Temarii: In the 19 English-speaking countries, it is the English Premier League, while France’s Ligue 1 is the magnet in the French-speaking nations.

Q: You used to play football professionally in France. How did that come about?
Reynald Temarii: When I was 14, I was spotted by two professional clubs (St Etienne and RC Strasbourg) and at 19, during a match in the French Cup, I was noticed by Nantes for whom I played for three years. Actually, I went to Nantes in France to study, as my grandparents could not afford to pay for me. I was said to be a talented player worthy of professional career but I did not have the ambition.

Q: In which position did you play?
Reynald Temarii: I was a number ten, a playmaker. Nantes saw me as a successor to Belgian international Franky Vercauteren. I had four good years with the club, playing with Christian Karembeu, Jorge Burruchaga, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps.

Q: Were you encouraged by your family?
Reynald Temarii: My grandfather, who raised me and was a good footballer himself and fan of football, wanted me to give my studies preference over football. That led to some heated discussions, which often ended up with me in tears. My grandmother backed me up though. They have both passed away and I miss them a lot.

Q: How did your time in Europe influence you?
Reynald Temarii: My experiences gave me confidence and helped me gain respect among my compatriots. I was a shy and introverted boy. To be alone in Nantes, in the cold weather so far away from your home country, makes you wake up, move forward and take your destiny into your own hands.

Q: Why are there not more Polynesian footballers at European clubs?
Reynald Temarii: My uncle Lucien was the first Tahitian to play for a professional club – Olympique Marseille in the 1960s. Then we had Pascal Vahirua at Auxerre, Patrick Appriou with Marseille and Marama Vahirua with Nantes and now Nice. Christian Karembeu, who in 2006 agreed to be the FIFA ambassador in Oceania, will certainly help promote more football vocations among the youngsters of the Pacific Islands. I am grateful for his commitment.

Q: When will your homeland Tahiti qualify for their first World Cup?
Reynald Temarii: I will succeed in my mission to develop football in Oceania as long as I keep in mind that I am no longer in charge of Tahitian football but that I have become an “Oceanian leader”. Therefore, I will dedicate as much time and attention and be equally involved in all the countries of the Pacific.

Q: All the same, it must be exhilarating when you watch Tahiti play in an international.
Reynald Temarii: If I’m honest, it’s not like that. I’m interested in other things these days. My hobbyhorse is the development of football across Oceania.

Q: Where will the OFC be in 2046 – when you are twice your current age?
Reynald Temarii: It will still be a confederation. Hopefully, one that is respected by all and led by a new generation of leaders.