23 Dec 2019

Samoa's Lupe o le Soaga FC pressing on despite measles epidemic

2:26 pm on 23 December 2019

Samoa's leading football club is forging ahead with preparations for next month's OFC qualifiers despite the country's ongoing measles epidemic.

Team Wellington's Taylor Schrijvers under pressure from the Lupe Ole Soaga defence

Team Wellington's Taylor Schrijvers under pressure from the Lupe Ole Soaga defence Photo: OFC/ phototek /Shane Wenzlick

The state of emergency declared in response to Samoa's deadly measles epidemic resulted in the Upolu Premier League's 2019 season being cut short.

However league leaders, Lupe o le Soaga, will still be representing the country in the oceania pre-qualification tournament which kicks off on 20 January in Auckland, with two places in the main draw up for grabs.

The team's coach, Paul Ualesi, said without domestic competitions, he has had to make adjustments to their preparations.

"They still kept the momentum up, we're not really stopping even now. We don't have much time [before the tournament]," Ualesi told The Samoa Observer.

Lupe Ole Soaga coach Paul Ualesi.

Lupe Ole Soaga coach Paul Ualesi. Photo: OFC / Alain Vartane

The tournament features two other teams Tupapa Maraerenga from the Cook Islands and Veitongo FC from Tonga.

American Samoa's Pago Youth FC were also supposed to feature but have pulled out of the competition citing safety concerns for players with measles still spreading around the Pacific.

For the three teams still in the running, the winner will enter Group D in the OFC Champions League alongside AS Venus from Tahiti, Fiji's Ba FC and nine-times regional champions Auckland City from New Zealand.

While the runner-up will enter Group C with New Caledonia's AS Magenta, AS Tiare Tahiti and either the Solomon Warriors or the Henderson Eels, the two teams still battling it out for the top spot in Solomon Islands' S-League.

The group stages of the OFC Champions League kick off in February and March next year with Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Tahiti to host the four respective groups.

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