Big challenge

Normal, Sports

The National, Thursday January 21st, 2016


PAPUA New Guinea women soccer coach Rachael Wadunah says her players are ready to face the New Zealand Football Ferns in their first Olympic Games qualifier at the PNGFA Football Academy at 11-Mile in Lae, Morobe, on Saturday.

The Madang woman, who was thrown into the coaching job after head coach Lisa Cole was unavailable, said it was a big challenge to mentor a group of amateurs to play against professionals.

She described the weekend’s soccer clash against New Zealand as a ‘David vs Golaith’ contest.

However, Wadunah said her squad’s enthusiasm to perform was evident and would ensure a competitive match against the Kiwis, who arrive in the country today.

“We are ready, but are mindful that New Zealand is a professional team, with players playing in the USA and Europe,” Wadunah said.

“They are a professional outfit and have been playing together as a team since the last game we had at Kalabond Oval in October 2014. 

“If you look at it, they had more than a year of training, having played the Brazil and USA senior women’s teams, while we only had a month. 

“We started training in December and we will play this Saturday.

“Just imagine the difference in preparation — the timing, the support, match practice and so on,” she said.

Wadunah said while the odds of them winning were a long shot, in sport upsets were always a possibility.

“We only had a month to train, no international friendlies and we are going to be playing professional players, who have been together as a team for a year. 

“It’s David-versus-Goliath but we’ll do our best on home soil,” she said.

Wadunah said she had to make a big decision when asked to coach the team — whether to protect her coaching reputation or take the reins on short notice for the sake of the sport — and she did.

After talking her with family and people in the soccer fraternity, the Bogia native was convinced coaching the team was the right thing to do — especially since the match was an Olympic qualifier.

The return leg of the qualifier will be held in New Zealand next Tuesday.

Wadunah said despite the difference in the level of professionalism between the two teams, her charges were ready to give it their all.

“We may not be as ready as they are, but we can play,” she said. 

Wadunah acknowledged her assistant Susan Watpore, coaching mentor Percy Mataio and manager Desi Ross for their support. 

PNG senior women’s squad: Yvonne Gabong (Under-20), Ramona Padio (U20), Marie Kaipu (U20), Lace Kunei (U20), Jacabeth Bani (U20), Sheila Gubag (U20), Gloria Laela (U20), Olitha Upaupa (U20), Hega Gerard (U20), Tetoria Robert (U20), Fidelma Watpore, Deslyn Siniu, Jenisa Ulengit, Joelyne Aimi, Carolyne Obi, Aida Gerota, Sandra Birum, Grace Steven, Kesai Kotome, Georgina Kaikas, Meagan Gunemba; 

Management team: Coach – Rachel Wadunah; Susan Watpore (assistant coach), Desi Ross (team manager) Ricky Mataio (coaching mentor).