- By Brunno Dubois
Football in a tropical paradise
2015 saw the 14th installment of the Pacific Games men’s football tournament, hosted by Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea became a football sensation between 3–17 July 2015 as the often exuberant, vibrant and never dull tournament took hold.
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) used this tournament as the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the 2016 Summer Olympic men’s tournament. A separate qualifying tournament was initially set to take place at Tonga between 2–12 December 2015, however, it was later decided to absorb the qualifying tournament into the Pacific Games, as the New Zealand team participated for the first time in the Pacific Games men’s football tournament.
As some of the participating teams are not members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and thus ineligible for the Olympics, there were two separate knockout stage, one for Olympic qualifying where the winner qualified for the men’s football tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and another for determining the Pacific Games medalists.
New Caledonia won the Pacific Games gold medal, while Fiji won the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Whist headlines such as “Vanuatu 46, FS Micronesia 0” may sound fantastical to say the lest games with combined scored amounting to over 30 goals are no rare in the competition. Although this does not mean that nail biting penalties after a 0-0 draw do not take place as Fiji knocked Vanuatu out 4-3 on penalties in this year’s competition.
In general much like the Women’s World Cup, the Pacific games is largely ignored and under appreciated as a sporting event. This tournament deeply steeped in culture and traditions is certainly worth supporting even if you are not a die-hard football fanatic.