By ISAAC LIRI
NATIONAL Soccer League competition manager Simon Koima says the door is still open for Hekari United to play in the 2017 season.
The Papua New Guinea Football Association-sanctioned competition is scheduled to kick off on Feb 18 and Koima said in spite of the club’s issues with the sport’s governing body, the NSL was a separate entity with an independent management.
Koima confirmed the champion club had not registered but maintained that Hekari’s inclusion was still possible through negotiation.
“It looks like Hekari will not take part but there is always room for them and there is room for negotiation all the time,” Koima said yesterday.
He said Hekari’s suspension by the Oceania Football Confederation from the Champions League had no bearing on their participation in domestic competitions.
However, the lack of time could scuttle the Koima’s offer because the deadline for the submission of the expression of interest forms, which was on Jan 31 had been extended to Friday.
Koima said, in part, Hekari’s chances had been helped by the deferral of the deadline however with the kick off date fast approaching the club needed to act.
“We have moved the deadline because theinterested clubs have been slow in submitting their expression of interest forms along with their affiliation fees so we are giving them some more time until Friday but the date set for the competition start has not changed,” Koima said.
He revealed that 11 clubs were expected to take part in this year’s competition and those those clubs would be officially named when affiliation requirements had been completed and a draw finalised by the end of the week.
“We expect to have the teams from last year returning this season.
“Madang FC, defending champions Lae City Dwellers, Besta United, Huawei PS United and the others,” he said.
Koima said his management also had the option of extending the deadline for registration if the clubs did not respond in time, thereby giving the Reds more time to consider their involvement in the competition they have won eight times since 2006.
Hekari United owner John Kapi Natto said he would continue his push to start a new national competition to rival the NSL and it seems unlikely the club will take up Koima’s offer.
“Obviously, if clubs are still slow to register for this year, we may have to change dates but for now all is going well and I’m hopeful we can still start on Feb 18th,” he said.
By ISAAC LIRI