By HENRY MORABANG
THE PAPUA New Guinea Under-20 women’s soccer team will be counting on big game-time experience to see them through the pool matches of the Fifa U20 Women’s World Cup in November.
With a majority of the players relatively new at representative level, coach Lisa Cole would be counting on the experience of Yvonne Gabong. With support from Ramona Padio, Joy Tsuga and Margaret Joseph, Gabong is tipped to step up and lead the girls from the midfield.
The part-Madang-Manus lass has donned PNG colours from the youth to senior level in women’s football.
Aged 20, the Goroka Grammar School Grade 11 student has made a meteoric rise since joining the U17 women’s team in 2009.
Inspired by her soccer playing dad and former PNG international Alfred Gabong, the young women first laced on boots at the age of nine.
She made her international debut at the age of 13 when she was selected to be part of an U17 side that went to New Zealand.
Her performance in New Zealand did not go unnoticed and she was asked to join the senior women’s team in preparation for the Pacific Games and the Olympic qualifier. She recalled that playing against the New Caledonia Le Cagous was challenging, and beating them was an unforgettable experience for her as a young footballer newly-inducted as a mid-fielder.
In January, Gabong was part of the senior women’s team that took part in the women’s World Cup Qualifier against New Zealand where PNG lost 7-1 in Lae, Morobe. She was one of the first players to be drafted to the PNG U20 squad when PNG won the bid to host the Fifa tournament.
Gabong was a member of the senior women’s team who played USA and Japan in the Tri Nations World Cup friendlies which coincided with the OFC Nations Cup.
She is highly-regarded as a senior player among her peers in the camp.
She described her trip to USA as a great experience because she saw young girls playing fast football who were physical and mentally fit.
She said she hoped to use her experiences from these two trips to lead the girls come November.
Her dad, Alfred played an inspirational role in football but she always looked to PNG women’s captain Deslyn Siniu as her role model. Gabong said she admired Siniu because she was one of the best midfielders and was captain of the PNG women’s senior team.
By HENRY MORABANG