Grudge match

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O-LEAGUE champions Hekari United FC will treat their opening encounter with Vanuatu champions, Amicale FC as a grudge match following the defection of their two key players, Stanley Waita and Alick Maemae.
Despite the move by the Solomon Islands international duo, Hekari franchise owner John Kapi Natto is confident that his chargers will be ready to take on the visitors on Saturday.
Kapi Natto has called on all soccer supporters to barrack for Hekari at Lloyd Robson Oval when they take on Amicale FC, dominated by the Solomon Islands players.
He said the PNG champions had good warm-up matches in Australia and New Zealand recently including last weekend’s friendly against Eastern Star FC and had provided a good yard stick on their performances.
He added that the team had been preparing well.
“I know its going to be tough but I am very sure that they will rise to the occasion. The boys have been putting their hearts to training,” he said.
Kapi Natto said Amicale FC needed a win to boost their presence in the O-League challenge.
Solomon Islands internationals Henry Faro’odo is in the training camp while Gideon Omokirio will miss the opening match due to his commitment with Oceania Football Confederation on beach soccer.
However, it was cancelled at the last minute forcing the Hekari United management to leave Omokirio out of the opening match.
PNG will be banking on local talents Kema Jack (striker), David Muta, Eric Komeng, Samuel Kini (midfielders) and Koriak Upaiga (fullback) to blend with their international counterparts from the Solomon Islands and Fiji.
Kapi Natto said Pita Bolaitoga (fullback) Malakai Tiwa (midfielder) and Osea Vakatalesau – all Fijians plus Joachim Waroi and Benjamin Mela – both from the Solomon Islands will add international flavour to the team.
Meanwhile, Amicale FC said they would play their own game against Hekari United FC.
Amicale vice-president Andrew Leong said the Vanuatu champions were not afraid of taking on defending champions in their first O-League match.
Coach William Malas and his side could have been given a less daunting opening match but Leong felt  the team had every chance of doing well in Port Moresby against the Papua New Guinea title-winners.
“We are taking on last season’s OFC club champions and they are a very strong side. But we are the Vanuatu Super Reds,” Leong said.
“We may have our problems but we will play our own game. We know who we are playing but Hekari does not scare us.”
Amicale have been drawn in Group A of the O-League and will also face Fiji’s Lautoka and the Solomon Islands side Koloale FC.
“Although Hekari United stand out as the best team, the other three sides have everything to play for. We want to play better and qualify for the next phase. That is first our O-League objective,” Leong said.
“Our aim is to have more continuity, do better and stay involved in all the O-League competitions until the end,” he said.