The National, Wednesday June 18th, 2013
By HENRY MORABANG
THE Oceania Football Confederation’s decision to revert to the old O-League format is a “slap in the face” of soccer in the region, Hekari United franchise owner John Kapi Natto says.
The confederation has decided to have all national club champions and selected runners-up to clash in a 12-team tournament in one location.
Kapi Natto, pictured, who received a memo on that from OFC official Tai Nicholas on the 2014 Champions League, said that had defeated the purpose of commercialising and popularising soccer in the region.
He said this year’s format was the best as supporters across island nations had the chance to see their national champions in action.
The 2014 OFC Championship League will be played in Fiji in April, while the preliminary finals will take place in September in Pago Pago, American Samoa, later this year.
The new format will not allow for a second tier for all national soccer leagues runners-up.
It will mean the dream of FC Port Moresby or Besta United FC to take part in the qualifying tournament is now in tatters.
Kapi Natto said the Oceania executive committee meeting on June 7 shelved the competition, and introduced a new format that would see 12 teams in three pools.
Instead of the champion teams travelling for home-and-away games, the new format will see all national club champions and selected runners-up converge in Fiji.
Kapi Natto said the Oceania executive committee strategically pushed for changes to support David Chung’s administration.
“Chung is fast losing popularity among soccer followers in the region for his dictatorial attitude,” he said.
He said participating teams (Hekari and others) were not given a chance to air their view on the amendments.
Kapi Natto said he selected Fiji as the venue under new format because the confederation had two legal people on the FIFA sub-committee, while American Samoa would support the OFC administration because they hosted a FIFA club qualifying tournament.
He condemned the decision endorsed.
He said instead of going forward, “We (OFC) are going 10 years back with the same old format”.
The Southern Highlander said the second tier competition for runners-up was a good promotion for the national soccer league in each country to fight for and it was an incentive that encouraged clubs to have something to play for if they did not win the minor premiership.
Pool A: Solomon Island, New Zealand 1, Tahiti 2, Preliminary Winners.
Pool B: New Zealand 2, Tahiti 1, Vanuatu 2, Fiji 2.
Pool C: Vanuatu 1, Fiji 1, New Caledonia 1, PNG.