For the past two months Tuvalu's national football team have been on a tour around the Netherlands playing a variety of lower-league Dutch club sides. In doing so they became only the third Oceanian team to visit Europe, after New Zealand and Tonga.
|Experience..the tour will prove valuable|
For Tuvalu to even be in the Netherlands is a major achievement. The island nation has only one football pitch, and partly for this reason, they have never played a home match.
That the tour is even happening is largely thanks to one man – Dutchman Paul Driessen. Paul is the driving force behind the Stichting Dutch Support Tuvalu (SDST), an organisation dedicated to developing football in Tuvalu and helping the Pacific country reach its target of FIFA membership.
Although Tuvalu attained independence in 1978 and has since frequently competed in the South Pacific Games, attempts to join FIFA have ran into difficulties. The governing body has repeatedly denied Tuvalu membership, citing a lack of infrastructure in Tuvalu (a regulation which, it must be assumed, other Pacific FIFA members are exempt from).
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) have proved less than helpful in their own right – Tuvalu remains only an associate member of the organisation, with OFC showing reluctance to provide funding and support.
|Hope...Tuvalu wait for FIFA membership|
From a footballing perspective, the tour itself hasn't gone quite how the Tuvaluans would have liked. After opening with a 3-2 defeat against VV Nieuweschoot, they went down 10-1 to VV Wilhelmus in their second game. It took seven attempts for them to secure a victory, which came against the A1 (youth) team of VV Bredenrodes. Tuvalu went into a 3-0 lead by half-time, and eventually won the game 5-3.
They put in some good performances since and scored some impressive victories, not least a 9-1 win over RKVV Tongelre in one of their recent games. One of the most consistent performers for Tuvalu through the tournament has been striker Alopua Petoa, who has contributed with a number of goals, although unfortunately full statistics are not available.
Tuvalu have two games left in the Netherlands, which take place against VV Elsendorp on 26 October followed by RKVV Oerle on the 31st. The tour will have proved a great learning experience for the Tuvalu footballers and served to raise awareness of their circumstances - they’re expected to formally apply for FIFA membership in the near future.
This article was written by Michael Peters. If you’d like to write for us contact firstname.lastname@example.org.