If you were to use the number of consecutive continental Champions’ League finals victories to identify the world’s most successful Football club, it would not be Real Madrid, but Auckland City FC. The Navy Blues have won 9 OFC Champions’ League finals in total, 7 of those consecutively. Of course the lower calibre of Football played in Oceania compared to pretty much every other continent distorts that statistic quite a bit, but it is a fun fact nevertheless. Auckland City FC are now in search of their 10th OFC Champions’ League cup having begun their campaign in Group C against Tahitian opponents AS Vénus.
Entrance at the Douglas Field was free and a modest crowd graced the terraces, including a handful of sing-song types. Operation La Décima went off to a perfect start with the Navy Blues winning 7-0. Last season’s runners-up in the Tahitian Football League put up a fight but simply could not compete with New Zealand’s strongest contemporary Footballing outfit not competing in the Hyundai A-League. AS Vénus traveled a long way for this match, even bringing a group of away fans. That is 7,000 kilometers one way to see your club concede 1 goal for every 1,000 kilometers. Astonishingly, no matchday programme was available to give AS Vénus any recognition whatsoever to those interested in the visitors, a downright outrage considering how far they traveled. Was a small page of information about the day’s guests too much to ask for?
FBTG has chosen to put this right. We shall take it upon ourselves to honour the humble Tahitians and their Football club with a small introduction here. Fuck blogging about Arsenal, Bayern and Barca; we’re in it for the Little Guys.
Tahiti could not be any more Pacific. The Polynesian island lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about the same distance South of the Equator as Hawaii is North of it and roughly lying on the same line of longitude as the youngest American state does. Unlike many of the Pacific Island states that now exist as independent sovereign nations, Tahiti remains resolutely French. Upon the will of la Belle France, yes, but Tahiti’s economic and political stability mean that in 2018 these Polynesians are content to remain French citizens, particularly as manufactured goods are more readily available at affordable prices thanks to French subsidies. French colonial rule was historically less pleasant for the Tahitians, whose language they forbade, but extensive cultural French influence (French is spoken far more widely than any other language in Tahiti) inevitably made its mark on Tahitian sport. While most other Pacific Island states are known for pretty much only Rugby, Tahitians have a great interest in Football. A population of only 190,000 will never produce a starting XI capable of slaying giants, but Tahitians sure do play. Testament to this is Tahiti’s status as host nation of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2013.
While France is the nation that has had the strongest influence in Tahitian history and culture from a holistic perspective, it is the British to whom we must turn to understand the context of AS Vénus. The Football club Association Sportive Vénus is located in the city Mahina and not in the island’s relatively well known capital Papeete. Mahina is the northernmost city in Tahiti but the very northernmost point on the whole of the island is Pointe Vénus. At this very spot in 1769, British Naval explorer Captain James Cook successfully arrived at the island of Tahiti, to which he would make 2 subsequent journeys later in the same century. Captain Cook’s legacy, although at times controversial, is deserved. His voyages around the Pacific helped bring the Pacific Islanders into closer contact with the rest of the world (for better or for worse), contributed massively to 18th century European science and paved the way for cartographers to successfully map the Pacific Island territories for the very first time. Captain Cook literally put Tahiti on the map, starting with Mahina.
Investing in a team of people to travel around the globe for years at a time is expensive. For the voyages to be viewed as successful, Cook and his crew were expected to gather as much information as possible on their journeys around the great Pacific region in as many fields as you can imagine. Don’t be confusing him with Darwin (who later also sailed to Tahiti). Cook’s missions were more about discovering, sampling and categorising than they were understanding how the wild and exotic flora and fauna found along the way came to be. Among many other disciplines, astronomy was an area of science that Great Britain expected Cook and his men to invest time in as they used British funds to sail. Upon arrival in Tahiti, they found the latitudinal position of the island perfect for star-gazing, particularly for one planet in our solar system. Venus’ transit (its periodic passing in front of the Sun) is extremely infrequent and in 1769 was of interest to astronomers. Tahiti was the ideal location for observing it.
This most northerly tip of Tahiti where Captain Cook made his arrival was later named “Fort Venus”. The name stuck, locals referred to the place as Fort Venus, the French changed it slightly to Pointe Vénus, and in 2018, 249 years after Captain Cook’s original arrival, the Football club of the closest city to Pointe Vénus, Mahina, is named in honour of the historical significance the site holds. A tower that acts as a lighthouse currently stands at Pointe Venus to identify the spot for the curious built in the 18th century. The symbol of the admittedly very elegant-looking lighthouse has been appropriated by AS Vénus and its fans. At this OFC Champions’ League group match in Auckland, the AS Vénus supporters held up a flag with the Pointe Venus lighthouse proudly on display.
This is the best part of Football Culture writing. Unearthing the extraordinary stories behind people and places we have never contemplated or heard of before through the glorious medium of Football is a joy. Yes, Auckland City FC won the match at a breeze and we sure did enjoy watching them win. But AS Vénus, its players, employees, associates and fans, deserve some recognition in the competition as worthy opponents, especially when you consider the distances traveled.
Association Sportive Vénus, this one’s for you.