The fantastic Koriak Upaiga: the Hekari United captain

Koriak Upaiga is well-known figure of football in Oceania; despite being in the big stage of Oceanian football for so long, Upaiga is still 32-years-old and goes for another OFC Champions League, this time captaining Hekari United after a four-year absence from the former champions of the competition. Upaiga also has experience from playing in Australia and in Solomon Islands, where he reached the semifinal stage in 2018 when player of Marist FC.

Upaiga, a 18-time international for Papua New Guinea, already tasted how it is to win the OFC Champions League – him and David Muta are the only players remaining from their historical title in 2009/10 OFC Champions League after beating Waitakere United in the finals. Hekari was the first team out of Australia and New Zealand to represent OFC in the FIFA Clubs World Cup – and Koriak Upaiga was there.

Koriak (left) playing for Hekari in FIFA Clubs World Cup 2010

In 2010, Hekari United faced Al-Wahda from United Arab Emirates and could not hold the full-professional side, losing by 3-0 in their only match in the tournament.

Koriak, a natural left-back, also is known for being an utility player – as players that can play in more than one position are known in Oceania. But, the 32-year-old goes beyond than being a defender: in the 2015 PNG National Soccer League edition, Koriak Upaiga was used as a striker for Hekari United staff – not only for one match, but for the entire season. And it worked perfectly: Upaiga was the top scorer of the season, scoring 21 goals in the process and winning the Golden Boot award.

Left-back, striker and… goalkeeper! Koriak Upaiga also started a match for Hekari United in one past season of PNG National Soccer League as a goalkeeper. The only choice for the position in that particular match was Ishmael Pole, that unfortunately for Hekari was injured.

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Koriak (goalkeeper) for Hekari United

The polyvalent Upaiga also helped Papua New Guinea to reach their first ever grand final of OFC Nations Cup in 2016 at home soil – this time playing mainly as left back, his natural position. Upaiga that made his debut in 2011 for the national team, scored his first goal for his country in this competition, in a 8-0 win over Samoa.

Unfortunately for Upaiga and his teammates, Papua New Guinea was beaten by the strong New Zealand side in the grand final in the penalty shootout, but it was certainly a moment to remember for all football fans in the country with their fantastic campaign and quality football displayed.

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The fantastic Koriak – Hekari United FC – Red Army Nation

Koriak already shown how important he is for Hekari United in the actual 2019/20 PNG National Soccer League season. Currently, the Port Moresby-based side is at the top of table, having won all of their matches in the season, but it could had been different if Koriak was not there to help.

The match was 1-1 against the impressive Tusbab Stallions in PNG Football Stadium; final moments of the match, Hekari has a free-kick at the egde of the box and Koriak is there to give his side the win.

What a goal from Koriak Upaiga!

Upaiga is certainly a key figure for Papua New Guinean football and he is still there to contribute for the evolution of the sport in his country and in the entire region. In May, 2020 it will be the anniversary of 10 years of the OFC Champions League glory in 2010 – the same month the grand final of the OFC Champions League 2020 will be played. Will Hekari United lift the trophy again 10 years later? The future will tell us if it is only a coincidence or the destiny.


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