James Naka: the king of the beach in Oceania

Football in Oceania is very interesting and a bit different. Unlike the rest of the world there is a good amount of footballers also play futsal or beach soccer regularly. It is not so difficult to find a player that represented his nation in two of these sports and there are also a few ones that played internationally in these three sports. However it is not everyday that a 11-a-side player becomes a legend in another modality, but it happened to Solomon Islands international James Naka.

Currently playing for Galaxy FC from Vanuatu, he was ruled out of the team’s final squad for 2020 OFC Champions League so he did not have the opportunity to find the net in this year’s edition. The 35-year-old forward has scored thirteen goals in thie tournament’s history including a goal for Kossa in 2007-08 OFC Champions League final against Waitakere United from New Zealand.

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Naka (right) fighting for the ball in 2007-08 OFC Champions League final

His quality on finding the net took him to Solomon Islands National Football Team. He made his official debut in the 2007 Pacific Games in a 12-1 win against American Samoa. Naka has been regularly called-up to represent his country for many years and his last international match in 11-a-side football was in 2017.

But Naka’s international experience goes further. In 2006, one year before debuting for Bonitos, he scored six goals and helped Solomon Islands National Beach Soccer Team to win the first ever edition of OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup. And it was just the beginning… Despite having a respectable career in football, Naka still had time to write his name on beach soccer’s history to become a legendary player in Oceania.

In the same year the Bilikiki (Solomon Islands National Beach Soccer Team nickname) went to Brazil to play their first ever FIFA World Cup. He scored the first goal of his nation in a World Cup in the 5-2 win against Cameroon and finished the tournament with six goals scored in three matches.

He still had another opportunity to play in Brazil in the upcoming year in the 2007 FIFA Beach Soocer World Cup. Unfortunately Bilikiki did not win any match, but Naka found the net for four times in the tournament. And after one year he scored eight more goals in Beach Soccer World Cup’s history.

Naka scored 17 goals in FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup’s history

The decade of 2010 also brought him a lot of pride and joy in the sand. He was awarded twice in 2011 OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup: the Golden Boot (award given to the tournament’s top scorer) and the Golden Ball (best player award). Two years later – in 2013 he won the Nations Cup with Solomon Islands once again but Bilikiki’s kingdom in Oceania was getting close to its end as Tahiti became the most powerful nation in Oceanian beach soccer. His last official challenge in the sand was last year in 2019 OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup. He scored twice and helped his homeland to achieve the final, but they lost to Tahiti.

Solomon Islands’ last appearance in FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups was in 2013 but Naka remains as the Oceanian player with most goals scored in the history of this tournament with 17 goals. This record will probably be broken in some years, but Naka will never be forgotten in his country.

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