Sport: PNG's National Soccer League playoffs cancelled

6:23 pm on 18 August 2017

Papua New Guinea's National Soccer League playoffs have been cancelled, with the national body vowing to be better prepared next season.

The regular season wrapped up a month ago, with Lae City Dwellers claiming the minor premiership, ahead of Madang FC.

The Dwellers defeated Besta FC 2 -1 in the first semi final a week later but the remainder of the finals series has been the subject of on-going postponments, with the NSL Board laying the blame on the rainy season in Lae, the national elections and the failure of some clubs to pay their fees in full.

Lae City won the NSL minor premiership and beat Besta FC in the first semi final.

Lae City won the NSL minor premiership and beat Besta FC in the first semi final. Photo: PNGFA Media

PS United subsequently pulled out of the semi final match-up against Madang and PNG Football Association Senior Vice President, John Wesley Gonjuan, said a range of factors ultimately undermined the viability of staging the finals.

"Now we've got options to move it to other areas but as far as we're concerned it is not condusive to have those matches (elsewhere) for other reasons," he said.

"For instance if we bring the finals down to Moresby it would cost us an arm and a leg to host it, just because of the cost of the venues we have here".

The NSL had kicked off at the start of May in Madang after a series of delays.

Lae City Dwellers have been declared 2017 National Soccer League champions.

Lae City Dwellers have been declared 2017 National Soccer League champions. Photo: PNGFA Media

John Wesley Gonjuan said the national league normally starts around November each year but had to be put back because the country was hosting the FIFA Under 20 Women's World Cup.

"The 2016/17 season was delayed for close to six months because of the World Cup and other issues as well so we had to quickly rush to find the champions to represent our country," he said.

"We had to delay, during the course of the tournament (as well), we had to delay for about a month, in order to give the opportunity for the players to represent the country and play in the World Cup qualifier and that again had a bearing on our NSL".

"The board are reviewing the structure of the competition currently. Apart from that they are putting measures in place in terms of the requirements on the regulations that we have," explain Mr Gonjuan.

"There was shortfall in terms of how we start our competition but given we have at least about three months now prior to the next competition we can be able to review and restructure ourselves and get things going properly".

Seven teams started the latest NSL campaign - down from 12 the previous season - but only six stayed the course following the withdrawal of Southern Strikers.

A handful of teams defected to the breakaway National Premier League, which boasts 12 teams and was launched earlier this year by Football Federation PNG, which is not recognised by the PNGFA, Oceania Football or FIFA.

Hekari United players celebrate scoring a goal against Tafea FC.

Hekari United won the inaugural National Premier League title. Photo: Oceania Football

The new "rebel" league, created by former PNGFA Vice President John Kapi Natto, the architect of the original NSL, wrapped its maiden campaign in June with Hekari United defeating FC Papaka 4-1 in the grand final.

Mr Kapi Natto has boasted about plans for the NPL to double in size, adding conferences in the Highlands and New Guinea Islands, but John Wesley Gonjuan was adamant the NSL remained the standard bearer for football in Papua New Guinea.

"We've got six teams currently now and we've got clubs that are showing interest so we might be going up to eight teams in the current season," he said.

"The league is going. We've got a very vibrant board that are working towards getting the league stable..."

"The National Soccer League we have a lot of supporters and a lot of followers. Just to give you a snapshot if you play a match on the weekend between two to four thousand people follow us that come and watch the games".

John Wesley Gonjuan said Lae City and Madang will once again represent PNG in the OFC Champions League while all franchisees must pay their fees in full to the NSL before the start of the next season in November.

Madang FC recorded their first ever OFC Champions League victory.

Madang FC will represent PNG in the 2018 OFC Champions League, alongside Lae City. Photo: OFC via Alain Vartane