History remains for Hekari United


THE year of 2010 marked a watershed period in Oceania’s football history as Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United became the first team outside of New Zealand or Australia to become champions of the region’s premier club football competition.
The Port Moresby club sealed their continental crown and passage to the 2010 Fifa Club World Cup by stunning New Zealand’s Waitakere United 4-2 on aggregate to put their nation, which was considered a late developer even by Oceania standards, on the global map.
Hekari still remain one of only two Pacific Island clubs to represent the region at a Fifa tournament alongside 2019 Oceania Football Confederation Champions League winners Hienghène Sport, from New Caledonia.
Founded in 2003 in Port Moresby, originally under the name of PRK Souths United, it didn’t take long for Hekari to rise to the top echelons of PNG football.
They secured eight consecutive National Soccer League titles between 2006 and 2014, but despite their impressive domestic record, Hekari’s historic 2009-2010 continental campaign remains the club’s greatest achievement. Following a fourth-place finish at the end of the 2008-2009 competition, Hekari had every reason to be optimistic about their chances when they embarked on their new continental journey in October 2009.
After the eight participants were drawn into two groups of four teams, Hekari ended up in Pool B alongside Fiji’s Lautoka, Vanuatu’s Tafea and the Solomon Islands’ Marist.
Following a slow start that saw them draw 3-3 with Tafea before losing 1-2 to Lautoka at home, Hekari kicked into gear to record four straight victories to finish on top of the group, just one point clear of Lautoka.
In the two-legged home-and-away title decider, the Melanesians faced two-time champions Waitakere United, who topped Group A on goal difference ahead of fellow Kiwi outfit Auckland City.
Kema Jack grabbed a brace while Solomon Islander Alick Maemae added another as Hekari eased to a 3-0 victory in the opening leg in Port Moresby in April 2010.
Waitakere responded with a 2-1 win on home soil two weeks later, but it wasn’t enough to overturn Hekari’s lead giving the Papua New Guineans a 4-2 aggregate victory.
A fisherman before taking up football, Jack, who hails from Kaparoko where there was no electricity or televisions, scored again in the return leg to emerge as the joint golden boot winner for the competition.
Hekari general manager Vonnie Kapi Natto, who had been with the team since it was established in 2003, couldn’t hide her delight following the milestone Oceania title.
“I want to dedicate our success to all the Pacific Island nations,” she said. “I’m sure this will be good motivation for our children and young people because they’ve seen that their brothers can compete and win at this level.”
Hekari’s Fiba Club World Cup debut in December 2010 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates was short-lived following a 0-3 loss to hosts Al Wahda in the opening match of the tournament.
But that doesn’t take anything away from the club’s historic achievement in breaking the dominance of Australian and New Zealand teams for the first time in Oceania’s top club football competition. – OFC

One thought on “History remains for Hekari United

    Was there and saw the match..
    I shouted with tears every time a goal was scored by my country team, Hekari..
    Can very well remember that moment..
    It’s something for me to remember as long as Hekari United remains a football team in PNG!

Comments are closed.