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Nice guys do not always make great sportsmen but Christian Karembeu certainly fits that bill.

In Auckland on a whistle-stop visit to lead the Oceania All Stars in their match against the LA Galaxy at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night, Karembeu took time out yesterday to talk about the loves of his life - his supermodel Slovakian wife Adriana and soccer.

So reluctant to talk about himself, he did not even mention it was his 38th birthday.

"I will work in football for Oceania until I die," he said matter-of-factly. His love affair with soccer in this part of the world undeniable.

It was from the town of Lifou in New Caledonia that Karembeu, as a 17-year-old, was launched on to the world stage.

Ironically, he had been urged to take the step as a 15- and 16-year-old but refused as he wanted to complete his schooling and ready himself for his chosen goal in life - to become a doctor.

He joined French club Nantes in 1990, going on to play 150 times for them.

His crowning moment came in 1998 when in one of his 53 appearances for France (from 1992-2002), he played in the French midfield in the World Cup final as they beat hotly favoured Brazil 3-0 in front of 80,000 fans in Paris to claim the cup for the first time.

Karembeu also played in the Confederation Cup and the World Club Championship (for Real Madrid) but these days, as a Fifa/Oceania Football Confederation ambassador, he prefers to talk about the game in this part of the world and particularly about what it means at the grassroots.

"I was proud of my career as a professional footballer but now I'm very passionate about Oceania and I'm happy to be very involved here. I was asked by [OFC president] Reynald Temarii to do something in Oceania," said Karembeu.

"I have given myself to the project. I feel honoured and privileged to be involved.

"I am an Oceania guy. Football gave me a lot. I'm very passionate about what I am doing and deeply excited. I feel it is important for players who have gone away to play should come back and be involved in the region.

"Football can fight many things, like social inequality. We should use football as an educational tool."

While his boots are no longer for playing - he says he has played barely a game a year since he retired in 2005 - they have not stayed still.

He has visited every Oceania country, and says he believes in the potential of Oceania as a full member confederation of sport's most powerful governing body.

"I am very proud of what the New Zealand women did at their recent World Cups," he said. "The kind of visibility their efforts gave shows other OFC countries what can be done but to achieve that, we have to be professional."

While he harbours a great desire to see an Oceania team in the A-League, he remains realistic in agreeing that it will take time.

"It would be great but for that to happen Oceania needs to be visible and the players competitive. We need to take it step-by-step and develop our players to a standard which would enable them to take that final step.

"I can see progress in the island nations and in New Zealand," said Karembeu.

"We can't fight with the other sports like rugby. We have to develop our own programmes.

"Professional football is work, not a game. You have to learn how to conduct yourself. We have to educate our young players to do that. When they do they will be better players and better people. It is a new generation."