Sport: Teething problems remain in PNG's revamped football league

2:04 pm on 13 May 2019

The man in charge of Papua New Guinea's National Soccer League (NSL) admits the revamped competition has not been without its challenges this season.

Hekari United, Kagua Erave and Toti City all advanced to the NSL final four at the weekend with quarter final victories over West Tribe, Morobe United and Blue Kumuls respectively, however the final match-up between Chebu AROB (Autonomous Region of Bougainville) and Eastern Stars was called-off at half-time because of heavy rain in Kokopo that left the pitch unplayable.

Southern Conference winners Hekari United beat West Tribe FC 2-0 in Port Moresby.

Southern Conference winners Hekari United beat West Tribe FC 2-0 in Port Moresby. Photo: PNG Football Association

NSL Manager Leslie Babaga said the pitch was inspected again on Sunday morning but was still deemed unfit for use and the Eastern Stars team have since returned home.

With the semi final first-legs scheduled to take place this weekend, NSL officials will meet with PNG Football Association President John Kapi Natto later today to determine when the rescheduled match will take place.

"We will have to play that game, definitely," Babaga said. "Today we're sitting down with the president and seeing how we can address that but that game has to go on before the weekend coming up so we have the four (semi-final) teams," he said.

"The three teams plus the Eastern Stars and Chebu winner, the four teams will go into a draw... they will play home and away this coming weekend and next weekend. The two teams with the home and away games that have the highest points playoff for first and second and the other two teams playoff for third and fourth."

Transport woes

Highlands conference runners up Blue Kumuls FC only arrived in Lae at 4am on Sunday morning, just 11 hours before kick-off in their quarter final clash against defending NSL champions Toti City.

The game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday but the team was held up after being forced to cover the full cost of their journey down to Morobe capital, where they had to sleep on the bus in the early hours of the morning before beginning preparations for the biggest match of their season, which they ended up losing 8-1.

Blue Kumuls players sleeping on the bus.

Blue Kumuls players sleeping on the bus. Photo: Elias Wapsiat

Meals and accommodation are the responsibility of the clubs, Babaga said, but he admitted the NSL office failed to provide money towards the team's transports costs in time.

"We normally subsidise a certain amount of money to assist them to pay their transport fee," he said. "Unfortunately we couldn't get the cheque banked in time on Friday so that was the issue. We sort of went into Plan B and said if you get down there we guarantee that by this week we will put the money into your account to reimburse your subsidy."

While not everything had gone to plan this season, the league was expanded to include conferences in the Highlands and the New Guinea Islands for the first time.

"Now it's gone to four corners of Papua New Guinea and it is a challenge," Babaga said.

"From the usual seven or eight teams that we normally have in an NSL season it's jumped up to 27 and yes we've experienced a few issues which will be addressed after this season.

"Because of the terrain that we have the cost actually is very high but we're fortunate we've got a sponsor who has come on board recently. Nevertheless the cost will be still high for us running the competition.

"The format is a good format, it gives opportunity to soccer or football loving people to take part. There's a few issues we've seen and we've learnt from it and we've made note of it. It's not going to happening overnight but it will take time as the competition grows and goes on it will improve."

Captain Raymond Gunemba was the hat-trick hero for Toti City FC.

Toti City captain Raymond Gunemba scored in the club's quarter final victory against Blue Kumuls. Photo: OFC via Phototek

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