19-year-old star player from Solomon Islands Raphael Lea’i played his first friendly match this week in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The striker is currently under trials with the FK Velež Mostar, one of the most important clubs of Bosnian football.
This Tuesday (24th Jan) Velež Mostar played the Croatian side NK Neretvanac Opuzen, a team currently played the 3 NL – the fourth tier of football in Croatia. The Bosnian side did not have many problems to surpass their opponents in this friendly – Lea’i started as an option in the bench, but he was introduced by the coach Nedim Jusufbegović during the match and made certainly a huge impact.
“He scored a goal, had an assist for a penalty, hit the crossbar and another player then scored a goal; also one ball was saved by the goalkeeper and one ball was kicked out of the goal during international club friendly this morning against NK Neretvanac Opuzen” said Wakio Tareina’a, one of the responsible for arranging the trials for Raphael Lea’i. You can watch his highlights of the match here.
The local fans seemed impressed with Lea’i skills: “Raphael is awesome” said a fan in social media; “Raphael is a great player“, said another local fan in the same commentary section. Even an comparison was made due the similarity of players’ names: “Milan has Rafael Leão, we have Raphael Lea’i“, said another fan citing Portuguese star player Rafael Leão that is one of key player for his national team and Italian giants Milan.
Tareina’a, Henderson Eels’ chairman – club that Lea’i was playing back in Solomon Islands – also stated about the chances of Lea’i signing his first professional contract: “We change the plans to secure a contract; the chances of him in Turkey were low so we decided to focus in Velež Mostar. The goal is to make him the first Solomon Islands to play pro in Europe“, said the Eels’ boss, “Adnan [Dizdarević] told me about this idea and I accepted. I also had some assurance from him on securing a contract for him there“, added Tareina’a.
Oceania Football Center will continue following closely the development of Lea’i in his trials to provide updates in the following days.