By HENRY MORABANG
IT will all come down to which side is mentally stronger when PNG’s Hekari United take on New Zealand champions Waitakere United in game one of the home-and-away final of the O-League at Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby tomorrow.
In the pre-match media conference yesterday, Hekari team manageress Vonnie Kapi Natto and midfielder Stanely Waita said their players must be mentally and physically prepared when they march on to the field.
It would be an big ask for the players as they will be playing in front of anticipated packed house.
Mrs Kapi Natto said preparations had been good for all team members except Joachim Waroi, who is still nursing an injury sustained in the match against Lautoka last month.
She added that the spirit was high in the camp and they were looking forward in playing against Waitekere.
“Discipline and commitment by players have brought us this far, and the boys want to ensure they win the first match at home ground to prepare them for the away match in Auckland on May 2,” she said.
“We have a core of experienced players from neighbouring Solomon Islands and Fiji, who have blended well with our local talents in their O-League campaign.
She stressed Hekari would not take New Zealanders lightly and PNG champions were ready to upset the visitors.
Midfielder Waita said this was “the biggest game of our life”.
“I think if we concentrate and follow game plan, follow what our coaches tell us, it would be great and I think we’ll win,” he said.
Waita, who had a stint in New Zealand for several years, urged his troop to give 110% effort.
“Waitekere players are very disciplined and play a consistently high standard. The disadvantage for us (Melanesians)is we lose patience and concentration too quickly when things don’t work in our favour. If we give 110% in our effort, we should walk away with positive results,” he said.
Local boy and striker Kema Jack said he wanted nothing less than a win in front of a parochial crowd who are expected in numbers to support Hekari tomorrow.
When asked whether Waitakere’s two Melanesian players Solomon Islander Benjamin Totori and Fijian Roy Krishna would pose any threat, assistant coach Tommy Mana said he saw no threat as he had the best defenders in O-League at the moment in Gideon Omokirio, Cyril Muta, Pita Bolatoga and Koriak Upaiga.
Waitekere United player-coach Neil Emblen said: “We’ve done the Solomon Islands trip before and we got there quite early but it was still tough on match day regardless of the fact that we’d been there a couple of days to prepare.” He said: “I know a lot of the players now and I know their strengths. Any team that gets through the group stage of an O-League and into the final you’ve got to respect. They’ll have a lot of individual skill and flair but they seem very organised as well so we’re in for a tough test.”
Emblen said Henry Fa’arodo and Alick Maemae are the two players that jump up out at you.“They’ve both played in the NZFC and they created a lot of problems for the teams they play against during their stint. We’ve got to make sure that we shut them down and not give them any space. We’ve got a couple of the Island boys, Benjamin Totori and Roy Krishna, playing for us and if you give them time and space they can really hurt you,”
“We know Hekari midfielder Stanley Waita has also played in the NZFC and they’ve got a couple of Fijians we know a little bit about. So they’ve got a lot of imported players in there and they’re doing a good job.
The Englishmen said: “We’ve set out a game plan that will be quite different to what we’ve been playing in the NZFC. Normally we try to execute a high tempo and we play a very attacking style. But the game this weekend will be about conserving energy. We can’t play the same way as we do in cooler temperatures here in New Zealand, it would be impossible to play that way. We’ve got to play to the conditions.”
The 2010 O-League champion will secure the US$500,000 playoff spot at the FIFA Club World Cup scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates, December 8-18, 2010.