Football has lessons to teach; sometimes more than we can even imagine. The sport was created by the British, spread rapidly worldwide and turned into a passion for billions of people. If you do not believe football is not that powerful, just imagine this sport started a war in Central America and was able to stop armed conflicts in Africa just to watch a single match – a sport that can create a variety of feelings will have one more chapter in the history of the greatness of football – 11th December of 2019 will mark for life the lifestories of a group of men that will make their country to wake up early to be stuck in front of TV. Hienghène Sport is living what football has as its best – living heaven on earth.
The New Caledonian side was founded in 1997 in the north of the country, exactly in the Hienghène province that has nearly 3000 inhabitants. Stade de Hienghène, the place where the football club of the province plays, can barely have an attendence of 1000 people. Hienghène Sport rapidly rised from the second tier of New Caledonian football to take part in the Mobil Super Ligue, the most important football league of the French overseas territory.
Hienghène had their first national glory in 2013 after lifting the Coupe de Calédonie title – the same glory they would retake in 2015 edition of the national cup. 2017 was the year the team in blue played their first OFC Champions League after winning for the first time the Mobil Super Ligue in New Caledonia – they were not succesful and left the tournament in the group stage that had New Zealanders of Team Wellington as group winners.
The rapid growth of Hienghène was enough to make everyone happy in the province, but something they never thought they could really achieve came in 2019. As runners-up of the national league, Hyehen took place in OFC Champions League of 2019 where they were grouped with Ni-Vanuatu national league runners-up Malampa Revivors, Tahitian Ligue 1 Vini champions AS Tefana and Papua New Guinean national league winners Lae City. Hienghène played at Stade Yoshida, Kone in New Caledonia the group phase – where they smashed Malampa Revivors with a 5-0 victory, won Tefana by 1-0 and draw against Lae City – this marked the first time the team from north of New Caledonia went through the group stage.
One of the most known teams of Oceania would be the challengers of Hienghène in the quarterfinal match of the Oceania Champions League: the Fijian powerhouse, Ba. Before suffering an early goal playing in Stade Yoshida, the one-legged qualifying match saw the idol Bertrand Kaï to equalize still in the first half. The game would be decided in the extra-time, where the midfielder Geordy Gony scored a header to put Hienghène Sport in the semifinals.
A good atmosphere for Hienghène was built: they would play a decisive match in New Caledonia, this time in Stade Numa-Daly in Nouméa, against the current title holders in that time Team Wellington. To play against a New Zealand side is always challenging for any Pacific Islands team – but Hienghène made history. Geordy Gony once again through a header put the New Caledonians upfront in the start of the second half and Jefferson Dahité sealed the victory for the New Caledonians to seal their sport in the grand final. Their national rivals, AS Magenta, were able to stun the powerhouse Auckland City in Nouméa to a 2-1 late win to seal their entry to the finals and make this the first ever final without a New Zealand club – with two sides of New Caledonia.
The decisive match, as the history tells, was decided not by the national hero Bertrand Kaï, nor even the Gony that scored in the previous two matches, but yes someone coming from the bench – Antoine Roine – that made something to put himself in history of Oceania forever.
Magenta pressed Hienghène – that did not play their best football of the tournament – but the magic of Roine was more than enough to make Hienghène win the OFC Champions League – something really no one in Oceania expected before the start of the tournament.
To finish the dream season of Hienghène, they have won the Coupe de Calédonie once again after beating AS Lössi in the grand final of the tournament and also claimed the trophy of Mobil Super Ligue for the second time in their history – just losing one match in the entire season in New Caledonia.
The club recently travelled to France to represent New Caledonia at Coupe de France – 7th round of the cup – and played against the 5th tier side AS Pierrots Vauban in Strasbourg, but could not create even more history in the season and ended up with a 3-1 defeat against the French side.
Hienghène will make history when they enter the pitch against Al-Sadd, the Qatar Stars League champions. Hienghène and no other team in New Caledonia is a full-professional club – currently there is not even a single club in the Oceania Football Confederation that holds a full-professional standard in football – and this makes the achievement of the New Caledonians even more important. Al-Sadd has a worldwide football idol as their head coach – the 2010 FIFA World Cup winners Xavi Hernández – something, certainly, not even the most optimistic Hyehen supporter expected to live.
The same tournament the amateur players of Hienghène will play is going to feature the UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool with their stars Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. The South American champions Flamengo is one of the most traditional clubs in America and will count with the class of former Inter Milan and Brazil national team striker Gabriel Barbosa.
History is already written in the hearts and memories of the Oceania football fans, the result of the contest will only have numbers not properly the history as itself. Hienghène Sport players train everyweek – some days not even together – but all of them need to have their own normal jobs to have a life, something very different from any club taking part in the tournament.
The beauty of football is made by stories. The beauty of football is made of struggle, pain and passion. The beauty of football is made from those who feel football, who live football and write the stories as Hienghène is doing; that is why Oceania today is Hienghène, that is why today we will be all united shouting HYEHEN, KOI THEEN!