Solomon Islands sport does have a strong connection with Brazil: the Bilikiki, as the Solomon Islands Beach Soccer National Team is known, is one of the strongest teams in Oceania – and they reached the world stage for the first time ever in Brazil.
Solomon Islands won Vanuatu in the decisive match of 2006 OFC Beach Soccer Championship to secure a spot in 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup – Brazil had introduced the world to Solomon Islands as it would be their first ever appearance in a World Cup held by FIFA.
Led by James Naka and Gideon Omokirio, Solomon Islands were not supposed to have an easy group to make their debut at a FIFA tournament: beach soccer powerhouses Uruguay and Portugal were in their way, while African representatives Cameroon completed the Group C.
But Bilikiki‘s debut could not be better: Solomon Islands faced Cameroon and their star James Naka scored four goals in the match; the experienced Omokirio added another to help his team to beat the Africans by 5-2 – Solomon Islands’ first game on the world stage, also their first victory ever.
James Naka: the king of the beach in Oceania.
A bigger challenge was there for Solomon Islands in their second match against Uruguay. The good team from South America needed to battle hard to confirm their favouritism against the Oceanian champions; Naka, Omokirio and Rogy scored one goal each, while Koto added a brace for his country, unfortunately it was not enough to surpass the Uruguayans that found the nets ten times in the match.
An even better side was their final opponent in the tournament: Portugal. The likes of Madjer and Belchior proved too strong for the first timers as the Portuguese team scored 14 goals in the match. Anisua and Luwi scored two goals in favour of the Solomon Islanders, but nothing more than consolation goals.
Solomon Islands finished their first ever appearance in a FIFA tournament in the third place in the Group C; scoring 12 times and conceding 26 goals – a great memory for the players and a great achievement for a whole country, especially recording their first ever win in the competition. The win against Cameroon was remarkable.
The warriors from Solomon Islands made their country proud in the sands of the famous Copabacana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The same Bilikiki would come back to Brazil in 2007 to play another FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup edition – where they even played against the hosts – to continue their path at world stage.
Solomon Islands lost the reigning spot in Oceanian beach soccer for Tahiti – the Tiki Toa already reached the grand final twice in recent editions of FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Solomon Islands are looking to have another strong generation in order to retain the standard James Naka & Co. helped them to achieve.
This article is part of the series ‘Brazil and Oceania: a Football connection‘.