Twelve must become eight in delayed Papua New Guinea NSL

FC Bougainville in training earlier today. They are one of twelve teams looking to secure a place in the eight-team NSL this season. Photo: FC Bougainville.

Details finally emerged this morning regarding the upcoming 2019/20 season of Papua New Guinea’s flagship competition, the National Soccer League, which will now start two weeks later than originally intended, on Saturday 30th November.

Several local fans had expressed their frustration on Facebook at the lack of transparency that the competition organisers had shown, with the original start date, this Saturday the 16th, just around the corner, and no word from the board as to which teams would be taking part.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the four semi-finalists from the previous season didn’t receive their prize money straight after the final (and may yet still require payment), and that the NSL board still hasn’t received the full payments from all the participating clubs from the 2019 season. This has led some commenters criticising those unknown, un-paying clubs as having been on a ‘joyride’ for the season.

However, despite a slight delay, these accusations don’t seem to have affected preparations for the upcoming season, with a report from the PNGFA website this morning revealing the new, deferred date, as well as the twelve teams who have registered their interest for the eight-team Premier Competition.

This means that it is likely that four teams will miss out on entering the competition, with the NSL secretariat confirming that teams had to jump through three hoops in order to be accepted: to submit an expression of interest (EOI), which all twelve teams have done; to submit a receipt of their initial payment, which five clubs have done; and to submit their final 30-player team list for the competition, which only two clubs have done.

While it is unclear as to which teams have done what, it was revealed which teams were in contention, and there are some familiar faces as well as some newcomers:

Eight-time champions Hekari United, coached by Solomon Islanders Jerry Allen, and reigning five-time champions Lae City FC, will surely contest the upper echelons of the league table if they get their documentation in on time, while there will be some stiff competition from veterans Morobe United and Eastern Stars should they make the final cut. Potential returning teams from last year include Gulf Komara FC, FC Bougainville, Morobe Wawens, Central United, Star Mountain and Tusbab Stallions, while there are two new clubs under consideration: Port Moresby Strikers, who may have some sort of affiliation with last season’s Southern Strikers, and Vitiaz United, who could well be under the same management as the club which just secured promotion to the top tier of football in Port Moresby.

Perhaps surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be an entry from West Tribe FC, who have been making noises on their Facebook page about the upcoming season, and to the disappointment of many, it doesn’t look like Madang FC will be making a comeback any time soon. Furthermore, the under-20 side of Besta PNG United, which has taken part in the last ten seasons, is also nowhere to be seen.

As yet, there is no further news about the Conference Competition and the Women’s Competition.

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