The fifth weekend of action in the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League is almost upon us, but most of the news this week has been about the eligibility of Lae City and Hekari United’s new foreign players, and whether we’ll see them taking the field alongside their new teammates tomorrow.
Both former champions have signed two South Americans to boost their chances ahead of the OFC Champions League Group Stages in February. Hekari United signed Brazilians Erick Joe Ribeira Morero Lopes and Vinicius Reis Kyrzozun, while Lae City took on Abdias Antonio Aguirre Aguirre and Gustine Icaza Vergara from Ecuador.
However, as reported earlier this week, Lae City have had some problems registering their new foreign players, due to the lack of information provided on the international Transfer Matching System (TMS), which has in turn meant the PNGFA has been unable to provide the two players with an International Transfer Certificate (ITC), which would allow them to officially register with the club and play in the National Soccer League, as well as the OFC Champions League.
According to FIFA, the TMS is “an online system that makes international transfers of players between clubs quicker, smoother and more transparent.” Furthermore, according to playfootball.com.au, an ITC is “a certificate provided from one national association to another to facilitate the transfer of a player between countries.”
This means that whenever a player transfers from one club to another, it must be registered in the TMS, and both clubs, the selling and buying club, must complete the necessary information in order to secure the ITC. While it appears Hekari United have done their due diligence here, the process at Lae City FC seems to have been mishandled.
The official line from the PNGFA, and their General Secretary Dimirit Mileng, is that Lae City failed to provide all the necessary information about the two players, which is why the PNGFA has been unable to clear the players for on-field duty since receiving a letter from the club on December 12th.
However, Lae City Recruitment Officer Edris Kumbruwah blamed the PNGFA for not providing enough information as to the due process required when bringing foreign players into the league, and also accused the PNGFA of sitting on their hands by failing to inform the club that more information was required until earlier this week.
The reaction on social media has been mixed, with some supporting the PNGFA’s stance, while others feeling Lae City have been unfairly treated.
Port Moresby Soccer Association President Joseph Ealedona said: “In my view the fault will be with Lae City, but if PNGFA did not seek this info quickly, then that’s a communication problem from the PNGFA, who must seriously improve in this respect.” However, Ealedona continued that he believed there was time for the issue to be resolved before the OFC Champions League kicks off.
Several Lae City FC fans have expressed their anger at the process, and accused PNGFA President John Kapi Natto of exercising bias towards his own team, Hekari United. Journalist Sylvester Gawi brushed off these reports, saying. “John Kapi Natto is an honest guy. Don’t blame him. Edris Kumbruwah should know better the process in which to obtain ITC for the two Ecuadorian imported players. I am die-hard Lae City FC supporter and I dont blame PNGFA for this blunder.”
It’s also unclear whether we will see the Brazilians taking the field for Hekari United this weekend either, with coach Jerry Allen saying yesterday that “we are waiting for the process to be completed and when it is done, hopefully they can take the field this weekend.” This suggests that the eight-time former champions are also still awaiting clearance from the PNGFA.
Both Lae and Hekari have tough home games this weekend, with leaders Hekari taking on third-placed Tusbab Stallions in Port Moresby, while Lae City play fourth-placed Vitiaz United in Lae. Elsewhere, Morobe Wawens host FC Bougainville in the early kick-off, Gulf Komara and Star Mountain will both be looking to secure their first win of the season, while Morobe United will be hoping that they can make the most of their home advantage against FC Kutubu from the Highlands.