On January 14th the Tongan people suffered a severe blow with the violent eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano causing a tsunami in the country and sending a cloud of ash and gas vapor into the air. As a result, the entire population had to be evacuated in a hurry, without power and communication. Unfortunately five people died due to the consequences of the volcano – being three in Tonga.
Soon after the disaster the people of Tonga joined forces to help the country restructure itself for better days. Football would logically be the last thing on Tonga’s list of concerns this year – the men’s national team was forced to withdraw of the World Cup qualifiers. Then came the question of whether the women’s team would be able to play the OFC Women’s Nations Cup or not – which will also serve as a qualifier for the Women’s World Cup.
The doubts came to an end early last week, when the Tongan Football Federation announced that the women’s national team would leave for Sydney to face the Philippines in a friendly match on April 22th.
The Philippine women’s national team has qualified for the 2023 World Cup – which will take place in Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this month they played two friendly matches against the Fiji women’s national team also in Sydney.
Tonga lost 16-0 to the Philippines in the friendly match last Friday. It is a painful defeat but the experience ofnfacing a high level team serve as a learning experience for the girls.
Now, the Tonga women’s team will spend another month in Australia preparing for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup – which will take place this July in Fiji.
On Friday – 8th April – Alden Suri made his debut for Petone FC in the Central League. This Thursday – 14th April – Alden Suri returned to the field for Petone FC against Napier City Rovers in the fourth round of the New Zealand Central League – the most important football league of the New Zealand’s capital region.
He scored his first goal for Petone FC in the 59th minute after receiving the ball on the left side, driving the ball and shooting with his right foot into the keeper’s left corner. If not for Harry Mason’s late goal in the 90th minute, the young Solomon Island’s striker would have given Petone FC their first win in the New Zealand Central League.
Petone FC now return to the field next Saturday against Waterside Karori AFC and hopefully Alden Suri will get more and more minutes and continue his rise in New Zealand football.
The Papua New Guinea women’s national team left for the Asian continent to continue their preparation for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, which will take one team from Oceania to the intercontinental playoff.
This time Papua New Guinea played the Tri-Nations tournament; the opponents were the hosts Singapore and the national team from Seychelles.
In the first match the Lakatois thrashed Seychelles 9-0. Seychelles had also lost to Singapore 6-2, so the two teams faced each other to determine who would take the tournament title.
In the match against Singapore, Sonia Emhabe scored her first international goal within 15 minutes remaining to give Papua New Guinea the win.
Coach Nicola Demaine was pleased and praised the team: “I was pleased to see the players ability to maintain their focus and technical skills under pressure of an international game and Infront of the crowd. There are definitely things we want to improve on. The more we play and learn, the more variety and complexity we can add to our collective tactics… We showed everyone that we can compete at this level, against any team with a higher world ranking. We took Papua New Guinea on and we gave a good account of ourselves, which I am very proud of. There was fantastic effort from every player and as a team, we put on a valiant effort”
The Papua New Guinea women’s team is likely to return to another training camp and play one or two more friendly matches to prepare for the Nations Cup in July – as the federation said.
The Fiji women’s national team has taken another step towards preparing for the OFC Nations Cup. The girls traveled to Sydney to play two friendly matches against the Philippines – national team that is qualified for the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup.
In the first clash Fiji lost 7-2; after trailing 6-0 at halftime, Cema Nasau and Adi Volitikoro managed to close the gap. The Philippines scored again within ten minutes to go.
In the second match the Philippines beat Fiji 8-0 showing all the quality of a national team that is qualified for the next edition of the women’s most important football of the world.
Even with the defeat, coach Lisa Cole praised the team’s performance and will. The coach said that the team is on the right track. Cole also stated that playing against high level teams is important for the development of women’s football in Fiji.
Fiji will probably only return to the field in the OFC women’s Nations Cup, a tournament that will also serve as a World Cup qualifier for Oceania. The winner of the tournament will qualify for an intercontinental playoff to battle for a spot at the FIFA women’s World Cup.
Alden Suri as well as Raphael Lea’i and Leon Kofana was on a scholarship at Scotts College in Wellington some years back. Unlike the other two Solomon Islands national team members, Suri continued to pursue his career in New Zealand. The son of Solomon Islands football legend Batram Suri was one of 21 Solomon Islands players who came to Brazil to play in the U17 FIFA World Cup in 2019.
Last Saturday the 18-year-old player made his debut for Petone FC in a 0-0 draw against Wellington United in the New Zealand Central League – the most important football league in the New Zealand’s capital region. He played 29 minutes coming from the bench.
Petone now return to the field on Friday against Napier City Rovers and it is expected that Alden Suri will get more and more game time to continue his development.
In the last week Raïmana Li Fung Kuee scored the decisive penalty kick goal to give AS Dragon the Coupe Élite title over Tamari Punaruu. This week – exactly on April 10th – Li Fung Kuee turned 37-years-old, one more year to be celebrated for the Tahitian multi-sports star.
Li Fung Kuee is a Tahitian football legend, whether on the field or in beach soccer. He has played in six editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup having captained Tahiti several times, reached the final with the Tik Toa twice in the World Cup final and won the bronze ball – third best player of the tournament – in the 2013 tournament that was held in Papeete. In 2019 he captained the Tahiti team at the OFC Nations Cup of Beach Soccer having the opportunity to win the tournament title for the first time in his career.
The peak of his beach soccer career was between 2013 and 2017 when he was a key player in helping Tahiti reach two FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup finals. Unfortunately Tahiti lost the 2015 and 2017 finals to Portugal and Brazil respectively having come very close to the title in 2015 when Li Fung Kuee scored two goals in the final, but it was not enough to prevent a 5-3 loss to Portugal – it seems that his trajectory with the beach soccer team is not finished yet.
His achievements are not limited to the beaches and sands; in field he even joined the Nantes squad but did not continue his career in French football. Despite this, he had a successful career in Tahitian football.
In the 2014 OFC Champions League, he led Pirae to the semi-final of the tournament by beating New Zealand giants Waitakere United – Li Fung Kuee scored a goal and provided an assist in the 3-1 win – Pirae were later eliminated by Auckland City in the semi-final, but are to date the only team to beat Auckland City in two consecutive editions and also the first team to beat two New Zealand teams in the same edition of the tournament.
Li Fung Kuee led the Tahitian Ligue 1 scoring charts twice, including in the 2014/15 season achieving the incredible mark of 30 goals. He won the national league once and the Tahiti Cup once with AS Pirae. This year Li Fung Kuee returned to the Tahiti natioanl football team for an official match since the 2007 Pacific Games. He was part of the squad that played the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Qatar and ended up being eliminated in the semi-final stage after losing by 1-0 against New Zealand.
His wife, Charlotte Rodriguez, followed her husband footsteps and today she also plays for the Tahitian women’s national football team – being named in the Tahitian squad that went to play friendly matches in Europe and might be at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in July.
AS Dragon currently leads the Tahitian Ligue 1 and Raïmana Li Fung Kuee can once again mark his name in the history of French Polynesian football if he can help his team to lift one more trophy in his already very sucessful sportman’s career.
Raphael Lea’i was expected to be with the other players to hold a trial but had to return to the Solomon Islands for personal reasons – the news was confirmed by his agent on talks to Oceania Football Center.
Raphael Lea’i is still likely to go overseas after an impressive performance in the last matches of Solomon Islands national team. The youngster scored four goals in the FIFA OFC World Cup.
Currently, the focus of SIFF and Basi Futebol – agency that is facilitating the trials in Australia and also manages Lea’i’s career – is on the ten national team players currently in Australia. Recently, national team head coach Felipe Vega-Arango said Lea’i does not need trials because he already proved himself in the last national team matches.
Brian Kaltak is Vanuatu’s most successful footballer in the last decade. He made his international debut – and was captain at the age of just 17.
For four seasons he has been with Auckland City – the biggest football club in Oceania. In Auckland he has established himself as one of the best defenders on South Pacific.
Now he is going on trial with Central Coast Marines of the Australian A-League and could be the second Ni-Vanuatu player to play at the highest level of Australian football – only Mitch Cooper managed to play in the A-League. Cooper played from 2012 to 2017 for both Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets.
“Iam greatful of the opportunity that I have to trial with the team for these two weeks. To be honest I am really looking forward to it – I will give my best. I’ve been with Auckland City for a number of years. I’ve been playing big games, so this league wouldn’t be new to me. I am known what happens in these big games, that’s the positive side of me and the experience I have from the past. If my trial is successful it would be an honor to help the team. ”
Unfortunately Brian Kaltak was unable to play the World Cup qualifiers with Vanuatu due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the delegation.
“Our trip in Qatar was great despite it didn’t happen the way we planned. It’s just unfortunate that the all team had tested positive with this virus and we had to pull out from the tournament – It is sad that this had to happen but it is what it is. We can’t change anything we have to live with it. The boys have good experience about the outside world and for now we had to look forward to what the future holds. It was a good experience for me as the team captain to drive those boys throughout our worst situation ’till we all recover and back training. “
The Oceania Football Center wishes Brian Kaltak best of luck in getting a professional contract with the Central Coast Mariners.
There are great news for the Oceania football fans and in specific the Solomon Islands’ fans: the young rising star Ali Mekawir has recently joined Australian football club Adelaide City, that currently plays at the second-tier league in the country – National Premier League South Australia (NPLSA). The news were confirmed by Solomon Islands Football Federation in a media statament.
Mekawir was a standout player in the last Telekom S-League season playing for Waneagu United; the striker also had a stint at Langney Warriors from England when part of Royals and Star Academy pathway programme. Mekawir made his debut for his national team in Qatar, but also had previous experiences in age group national teams.
Mekawir said do SIFF Media he is very happy to come to Australia and continue his football career: “It won’t be easy coming into a new environment but that’s part of football. The former Waneagu United added.
More Solomon Islands’ players are expected to join teams in Australia anytime soon, since some of the players that made their camp in Queensland before travelling to the World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar received opportunities for trials in the National Premier League (NPL) clubs.
Papua New Guinea – like Fiji and Tahiti – is yet another team to leave its country to play friendly matches in preparation for the OFC Nations Cup. The national team will be taking part on Tri Nations tournament to be held in Singapore.
The PNG women’s team – who are the current Pacific Games champions – will travel to Singapore to face the local national team and the Seychelles national team. The first match of the tournament was played this week with Singapore beating Seychelles 6-2.
The English head coach Nicola Demaine will have his first official matches in charge of the Papua New Guinea national team. She led Samoa to the silver medal at the 2019 Pacific Games – losing to PNG in the final. Demaine will be tasked with keeping the Lakatois at the top of the OFC as the most successful team apart of New Zealand.
Papua New Guinea Squad:
Margaret Joseph (Bara FC / PNG) Kesai Katome (Bara FC / PNG) Charlie Marip (Bara FC / PNG) Fidelma Watpore (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Lucy Maino (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Lavina Hola (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Yvonne Gabong (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Rayleen Bauelua (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Ramona Padio (Port Moresby Strikers FC / PNG) Asaiso Gossie (Goroka University / PNG) Faith Kasiray (NCD Hekari United FC / PNG) Shalom Waida (NCD Hekari United FC / PNG) Rumona Morris (NCD Hekari United FC / PNG) Sonia Embahe (NCD Hekari United FC / PNG) Marie Kaipu (NCD Hekari United FC / PNG) Meagan Gunemba (Poro FC / PNG) Olivia Upaupa (Tusbab Laidamon FC / PNG) Isabella Natera (Tusbab Laidamon FC / PNG) Sagude Zale (Tusbab Laidamon FC / PNG) Joan Uttie (Unattached)
PNG is set to play Seychelles first in the tournament and then faces Singapore on March 11th. All matches of the tournament will be held at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore.