Vitiaz United is surprising everyone in the current season of the most important football league of Papua New Guinea, the PNG National Soccer League. The newcomers in the national league were at the top of the table before the forced break due COVID-19 pandemic – and, surely, they stick on that position since we have no football in the country.
The mix of experienced players as the team captain Eliud Fugre and Joshua Talau and talent youngsters, as Yagi Yasasa and Russel Chris are working perfectly for the Port Moresby-based team. Vitiaz drew against the powerful Hekari United and beat the current national champions Lae City in the process, also recording a convicing win against the also strong side Tusbab Stallions in the run.
The team is surprising the football community in Papua New Guinea. It might not be a total surprise for Matthew Strach, the president of Vitiaz, that is bringing a new mindset to the sport with his team in the PNG National Soccer League: “It is all about mindset and attitude. We have noticed in football players in Papua New Guinea and our general country’s mindset too”, explains Strach. “I believe in making the best of every opportunity I have. I came from a tough background and made it through but I still see my friends and family waiting for something to happen and not going out there to do something about it. I try to bring that attitude to people around me. I am now working with my footballers as a start and hope they take that lesson back home to improve themselves and others around them“, explains the founder and president of Vitiaz United.
Vitiaz is a known club in the PNG community, but Strach explains why they are having just now their first appearance at PNG National Soccer League: “We have been registered with PMSA since 2013. But this is the first year in NSL. I have always wanted to take part in this competition. In fact that was the reason I registered the club in PMSA. I had so many of my boys and friends running in different NSL teams and I wanted to bring them all together considering how the other clubs treat the players“, explained the president.
Strach explained it was not hard for him and his directors to recruit a strong squad for the national league, due their experience in playing at PMSA: “I have a few of my boys in Lae who come to assist me every year at PMSA. I held onto them and got my senior players to recruit other players that could work together. I knew I couldn’t go fully development but get running players that knew how to gel with each other. That was the formula: to mix young talents with experienced players“.
Vitiaz management take it very seriously and organise itself in a very professional manner; differently from the most of the clubs the public commonly know in Oceania: “At the moment it is manageable as I am founder/president. My wife [Rogena Strach] is secretary and current Team Manager. We have a treasurer who looks after the books and a Vice President. Currently Vitiaz is registered as an association but putting in things in place to register it as a business. As an association it has worked well for the amateur competition but the national league is a bit more intense and requires more stringent controls to be in place to safeguard both the aspirations of the club and making sure the players are well taken care of. Our ultimate goal is to setup an academy to identify very young talents who will come through the system and take the ambitions of the club places and hopefully expose them to the world so they can go earn a living“.
Vitiaz is looking beyond the game results; they are looking to build a strong relationship with the community, to contribute with the evolution of the game and with expert administrators ready to expose the talent Papua New Guinea has. Strach also mentioned the club is already seeking overseas deals and opportunities to develop Vitiaz brand and create bussiness relationships.
Altough the club is ambitious, they are still looking for a major sponsorship to help with their full development, as the president also disclosed to Oceania Football Center Vitiaz, struggles financially in certain situations.
Strach also detects certain problems in Papua New Guinean football reality; he says the clubs need to learn how to deal with these situations and not harm the performance of their teams: “To me most players expect quick recognition. With the little skills they have, they think it will take them places and they do not want to work harder as soon as they get recognised at the association level or if they make into an NSL team. But generally, PNG has not gotten the football development focus. We need to revisit that. […] My major one is attitude which we as a society are lacking. If we can get our footballers to think better and strive to be the best we will be on a better position to hopefully make it to the World Cup. Papua New Guinean players generally do not take instructions well because they think they know more. They need to humble themselves and keep working hard to be better every day“, explains the Vitiaz president.
Strach and his team biggest goal at the moment is to qualify for the OFC Champions League of 2021; the club is set to build new strategies if they can seal a spot in the regional tourmament and represent Papua New Guinea at international level. There is much more to come for the Port Moresby-based team – their management mindset is something above average in Oceania, something Oceania Football Center encourages all football teams in the region to follow.