Tuvalu will apply for entry to world football governing body FIFA after coming from two goals down to beat Tonga 4-3 in a Pacific Mini Games thriller.
The tiny island nation beat Tonga, who are bottom of the FIFA international rankings in 206th spot, and now hopes it will be accepted as a verified football nation.
Tuvalu also beat New Caledonia 2-1 in the tournament after a series of impressive performances.
Acceptance into FIFA and the Oceania Football Confederation means Tuvalu could take part in the Oceania Cup and qualification for the World Cup.
Conifa, the governing body for countries and independent states not recognised by FIFA, says Tuvalu and Kiribati have both applied for FIFA membership.
However, Tuvalu faces several challenges if it wants to get in.
The country, says Conifa, has applied before and even paid for FIFA and OFC members to visit only to be rejected on a ‘technical error’.
Confia’s Twitter account said: “Both, #Tuvalu and #Kiribati applied for full membership in OFC and FIFA several times. FIFA and OFC delegations visited both places repeatedly (covered by the hosts budget).
“Both have been rejected for technical errors in the application.”
It added: “Kiribati and soon Tuvalu are currently preparing new applications, we wouldn’t want to share any internals at this point.
“The new year will bring loads of news on that point, though. Stay tuned! ”
Tuvalu and Kiribati will need to be accepted into OFC first before it can gain full FIFA membership.
Tuvalu has a population of just 11,200 and is one of the smallest countries in the world. It had tried to secure FIFA membership for over 30 years.
A lack of facilities – the country has never hosted a home international – and funding is a major hurdle for the country, while a domestic league would need to be set up.
amazingly, the team plays on a pitch that doubles as an airport runway – and the win against New Caledonia in particular has not gone unnoticed on the island.
“I received an email this morning from the Tuvalu Prime Minister to congratulate the football team,” Molotii Iakopo, the president of the Team Tuvalu delegation in Port Vila, told the Vanuatu 2017 Games News Service.
“It was a very happy moment for all of us because we have never defeated New Caledonia before.
“Back home we train and play on the runway. About 30 minutes before a plane lands, there is a siren so we stop and clear the airstrip. But now we’ve planned it well, so we only train on the days when there are no flights coming in. We have a field, but Saturdays are the only time we get the chance to use it.
“Our team has come from training on the runway to actually winning matches, and this is an historic moment for the team, because it has taken us a long time to finally beat New Caledonia.”
Despite heavy losses to Vanuatu and Fiji, the incredible victories means a new Oceania FIFA nation may be on the horizon.