Sport: Faith pays off for Toti FC coach

2:29 pm on 11 December 2018

Toti City Dwellers coach Peter Gunemba is excited for the future of football in Papua New Guinea once more, after the sport's warring factions reunited earlier this year.

The Lae-based club have won four straight National Soccer League (NSL) titles and reached the quarter finals of this year's Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Champions League, becoming the first PNG club to advance to the knockout rounds since Hekari United lifted the title in 2010.

Toti coach Peter Gunemba.

Toti coach Peter Gunemba. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Seiko Kurokawa

The NSL shrunk from 12 teams to as few as six over the past two years after seven local associations were suspended by the Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA) in 2016.

That led to the formation of a breakaway organisation, Football Federation PNG (FFPNG), which was not recognised by the sport's world governing body FIFA, with Hekari United among the clubs who opted to compete in the rival National Premier League.

However, in July, FFPNG president and Hekari United owner John Kapi Natto agreed to end the rival group and three months later he was elected president of the newly united PNGFA.

PNG striker Meagen Gunemba.

PNG striker Meagen Gunemba. Photo: OFC via Phototek

Gunemba said his decision to stick with the national governing body had been vindicated.

"I always want to be faithful to PNGFA, Papua New Guinea because I love football," he said.

"My whole family, we love football and we don't want to destroy football in the country. That's why we've been so faithful."

Troy Gunemba during Lae City's 7-2 win over Tupapa.

Troy Gunemba is action for Toti FC. Photo: OFC via Phototek

In addition to his duties with Toti FC, Gunemba is the head coach of the PNG senior women's football team.

Daughters Judith Gunemba and Meagen Gunemba were key figures in the Lakatois, who finished third in the recent OFC Women's Nations Cup, while sons Raymond Gunemba and Troy Gunemba play under their father for Toti FC.

"I have told my sons and daughters they have to remain with PNGFA because that is the best pathway to play football so we stayed faithful," he said.

"I am pleased we are together now and I would like to see a lot of soccer in Papua New Guinea reach the next high."

Toti FC are the 2018 National Soccer League champions.

Toti FC are the 2018 National Soccer League champions. Photo: PNG Football Association

An expanded NSL is scheduled to kick off in the new year with all 18 member associations eligible to enter a team.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs