Samoa Premier Men’s League is contested by twelve teams and each team is supposed to play 22 matches in a season. Last season was an incredible one with an amazing title race starred by Lupe o le Soaga and Kiwi with the second one lifting the trophy in the final curtain due to goal debit criteria after both teams ended the championship tied on top with 54 points. “It was an amazing feeling” said Martin Tamasese (Kiwi’s Head Coach) about winning the 2018 Samoan League.
“It was very exciting specially for me. Helping Kiwi to win the league was one of the major achievements of my career.” said Ken Kerewi, former Kiwi player. This title had a different taste for them because it marked their return to Oceania Champions League. They had a good campaign in this year’s continental tournament where they managed to qualify to the Group Stage after ending the Preliminary Round in the second position.
Lupe o le Soaga ended the first half of 2019 season on the top with 27 points followed by Kiwi with 25. It seems that Lupe staff learned a lesson from last season once they also have the best attack in this year’s competition with 69 goals scored. “That’s why we try our very best to get away from Goal Difference as you can see […] but we need to remain on top by winning games and keep up the good momentum.” said head coach Paul Ualesi.
The clash between Lupe and Kiwi was one of the highlights of the championship so far. Lapalapa Toni was a gamechanger for Lupe to beat their rivals by 1-0. “Beating Kiwi is not easy […] They are one of the strong teams of the tournament. Winning Kiwi was an awesome feeling” stated Ualesi.
If Lapalapa Toni was a good differential for Lupe in the first half of the season, his absence may be a bad differential in their remaining matches once he is coming back to New Zealand. It is very important to check how they are going to play without him. Toni thinks they should not worry about it because Ualesi’s squad is really good: “They will stay on the top for champion this year” he told to Oceania Football Center.
This confidence does not come only from Lapalapa Toni. The squad is really focused on winning Premier Men’s League and qualify for 2020 OFC Champions League. “That’s our aim”, said John Wesley Te’o, a young player from Lupe.
Kiwi and Lupe o le Soaga are fighting for the trophy for one more year but at this time they have some other good challengers to threat them. Vaitele-Uta, Vaiusu, Vaivase-Tai, Vaipuna and Lepea are being hard opponents.
“If the question is what has changed, I would say bluntly, Football in Samoa. Simply. Football has changed! Not so much changed but has evolved, by a fair gain.” stated Ben Petana, Vaivase-Tai’s player about football development in the country
Tamasese and Ualesi are aware of it and they agree that it is a development signal in Samoan football. “It is all about commitment and I believe the second round is going to be an amazing round of football, it is not only Lupe and Kiwi fighting for the first place. There are five other clubs chasing us […] Majority of the players (of these five teams) were all from FFS development programs, and we have seen the quality of these players in their performance in every match.” said Tamasese.
Vaivase-Tai’s head coach Horst Petana talked about his young squad: “The majority of my team are teenagers who have competed in the previous youth division competition and it is a challenge for them to compete against experienced teams like Kiwi FC and Lupe ole Soaga at the Senior level. […] The young players who are in the squad were part of the development program for a while and I’m confident we can do better. […] We were the champions of the U20 League for the third year in a row and that is the biggest motivation for them now.”
Ben Petana also talked about this youth power they have in Vaivase-Tai: “We have a very young team, our development side, despite all the obstacles, has shown a lot of potential to be the best in Samoa in the next coming years. Currently there are 16, 17 and 19 year old players making up the most of our current Premier Men’s team, and they have already represented Samoa at international level.”
Despite the tough title’s contest, Kiwi’s player Kasper Havemann is confident “Some key players are coming back from injuries and travels, while we have some new players joining the club.”
Clubs have suffered with key players’ absence in some matches due to OFC Olympic Qualifiers held in Fiji like Osa Savelio and Kawasaki Saofaiga (Lepea), Tumua Leo (Vaipuna), Ronnie Bourne (Vaitele-Uta) and Eti Fatu (Vaivase-Tai) just to name a few examples. “The FFS should have postpone the competition until the qualifiers is finished.”, stated Horst Petana.
With half of the season remaining all possibilites are still open. Football fans can sit down and expect good things from Samoan League. With no more obstacles in the calendar all teams are going to have their best players available for this amazing title race. You can check the results and standings by clicking here.