Marama Vahirua will be one of the oldest players in the Oceania Champions League.
He will also be one of the most decorated. A former France under 21 international, the Tahiti superstar has had a stellar career in Europe.
Marama Vahirua, a talented attacking midfielder, won the French Ligue 1 with Nantes in 2002, scored in the UEFA Champions League against PSV in the same season and then enjoyed a superb two-year spell at Nice – a club that now boasts Mario Balotelli in its squad.
He also appeared for French giants Monaco, where he scored this goal:
Vahirua is one of the best players to come from Oceania in the last 30 years. His famous ‘kayak’ goal celebration was a nod to his Tahiti roots and he even played for the national team in the famous Confederations Cup games against Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay in Brazil in 2014.
It was there that his corner set up Jonathan Tehau to score a famous goal against Nigeria – Tahiti’s first ever goal in a proper FIFA tournament.
Now 37, Vahirua has returned to Tahiti and will play in the 2018 Oceania Champions League for Dragon of Tahiti.
Now he wants to win the Oceania Champions League – 15 years after scoring in the European version.
He told SoFoot: “It’s THE competition. This is our Champions League. Everyone wants to win.”
However, he is aware that New Zealand clubs are difficult opponents for the island nations. He says: “The jackpot at the end is so huge for a Pacific club like us. Alas for us, there is an ogre in the Pacific with New Zealand.”
It is unlikely 2018 will be Vahirua’s last tournament given his longevity but Dragon will be hoping he can help them take part in a tournament to remember.
They will be pleased Vahirua has moved back to the island with his wife and five children and now coaches the under 13s of Dragon, as well as holding his own football apprenticeships for youngsters.
Dragon’s Oceania Champions League Group
Vahirua will play for Dragon in Group B of the Oceania Champions League. They have home advantage and will host three tough opponents.
Solomon Warriors of Solomon Islands, Lossi of New Caledonia and Erakor Golden Star of Vanuatu will provide a stern test for Dragon.
Group B, like Group A, kicks off first on 10 February. The group stage lasts for eight days and takes place at Stade Pater, Papeete.
Dragon take on Lossi in the opening game on 10 February, followed by games against Erakor Gold Star and Solomon Warriors.