BY ROMULUS HUTA
THE historic visit of the FIFA world cup trophy to Solomon Islands will be accompanied by former French national footballer and New Caledonian Christian Karembeu.
The trophy will touch down at Henderson International Airport in Honiara early Thursday morning.
Karembeu was a key member of the France world cup 1998 winning squad which thrashed Brazil 3-0 in Paris in the grandfinal to win the most coveted and prestigious soccer prize for the first time.
Other members of Karembeu’s world cup winning line-up include legendary Zinedine Zidane, Fabian Barthez, Emmanuel Petit, Thiery Henry, Lilian Thuram, David Trezeguet and Youri Djorkaef.
The former Real Madrid and Nantes dreadlocked-holding midfielder hails from Lifou in New Caledonia and that was where he began his lavishing soccer career.
Lifou is the largest of the Loyalty Islands found off New Caledonia’s east coast.
At the age of 17, Karembeu left his homeland to attend the Nantes Football Academy in France where he won the French Championship in 1995 with the Nantes senior team. Three years later, he won another trophy, the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid and followed by the world cup.
Two years after winning the World Cup™, Karembeu won the European Championship before announcing his international retirement in 2002 with 53 caps and one goal scored.
Reflecting on the lengthy colourful soccer career of Karembeu, the participation at the World Cup 1998 was a special one in the footballing history for New Caledonia and OFC.
Even if the Oceania Confederation didn’t have any teams representing it at the FIFA World Cup™ France 1998, it did have one player born and raised in the Pacific doing the region proud. With the whole of the Pacific behind him, Christian Karembeu helped hosts France lift the World Cup™ trophy.
Meanwhile, global beverage company Coca-Cola is sponsoring the globe-trotting trip of the trophy.
The Honiara leg will take three hours before it is flown to its next destination.
The ceremony to welcome the trophy in Honiara will be held at the Henderson Airport.
There are two scenarios being put in place by organisers. The scenarios depend very much on the weather conditions.
If it is sunny then the trophy will make its way out onto the tarmac for the people to get a glimpse of it. If it rains, the trophy will not be taken outside but remain on the plane.
No one is allowed to touch the trophy except the head of state.
There will be tight security deployed at the airport during the arrival of the iconic solid-gold trophy.
Solomon Islands is one of the three countries in the Pacific the trophy will visit. The other two are Tonga and PNG.
Meanwhile, the 2018 World Cup Trophy Tour started in Russia – the host of the tournament — on Sept 9 2017 and travels to 51 countries covering 126,000 kilometres before the journey ends in Russia on June 7.
The Russia 2018 World Cup will be held June 14 to July 15 with 32 countries competing to be crowned the world‘s best football team.