Gimale Essacu is a very talented player from Papua New Guinea who is currently living in the United States of America after spending two years playing for Western Illinois Leathernecks in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer – the major football league from USA at universitary level.
His experience abroad called the attention of Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA) and the 23-year-old midfielder was called-up to represent his country in the OFC Olympic Qualifiers held in Fiji last year and it was an unique experience for him – “I was told to play as a center back. A position I have never played. When I was first told this I was obviously a little shocked, nervous and confused because I normally play as an attacking player or an attacking right back… but when your country asks you to do something, you shut up, put the jersey on and do it,” he explained.
Papua New Guinea had a tough debut in the tournament as they lost to Vanuatu by 3-1 with two goals scored by Azariah Soromon – “I remember feeling so nervous and struggling for most of the first game of the tournament against Vanuatu. Mainly because I was in a situation where I had to learn a whole new position while adapting to the heat in Fiji. It was not another football match. I was representing my country,” said Essacu.
“As the tournament got further I started to understand a little more of the role and by the end of the Olympic Qualifiers I was having a better performance and enjoyed it,” he pointed. Papua New Guinea’s second clash was against Fiji and they lost by 3-1 once again. The first and only win in the tournament was in the final round of the group stage against Tonga. You can check Essacu’s highlights in the 2019 OFC Olympic Qualifiers by clicking here.
Unfortunately Papua New Guinea was not able to advance to the semi-finals as Essacu’s side finished the group stage in the third position with three points in three matches. Despite the bad results, the midfielder recognizes the importance of playing this tournament – “Reflecting back now I realized how this tournament helped me deal with so many new situations in my life. I think learning to adapt to new surroundings is so important and overcoming them builds character,” he explained.
Essacu is currently without a club in the United States of America as he graduated from Western Illinois University a few months ago and most football leagues in the country are stopped due to COVID-19 pandemics.