By ISAAC LIRI
FOOTBALL has been played in the New Guinea Islands in the past and the region is known to have produced many national representatives down memory lane.
However after all these years of footballing at a lower level despite having the talent, the pathway wasn’t clear for many raw talents in the region.
Back in those days, the lucky ones did it their way and were scouted by well-established NSL teams based in Lae, Port Moresby and Madang or during the Besta FA Cup NGI leg, but that was not a clear pathway, one could still notice that there was a missing link.
The coming of Papua New Guinea’s premier football competition, the National Soccer League to Kimbe, West New Britain province for the first time on Feb 24 at the Sasi Muthuvel Stadium has gone down in the PNGFA/NSL books as a milestone event that the people of NGI will forever be grateful about.
With the support from major sponsors Kumul Petroleum, the NSL was first played in the islands as thousands gathered to witness history in the making.
The stadium was packed to capacity and some who couldn’t make it in were standing outside the stadium fence just to get a feel of what a NSL match was all about.
PNG Football Association president John Kapi Natto was given a heroe’s welcome, the crowd loved him; when he addressed the crowd the stands erupted with applause. It was a cheer of gratitude for bringing the NSL to the islands.
A singsing group from Ruango welcomed Kapi Natto and his delegates which include NSL chairman Benny Popoitai and PNGFA judiciary representative Dan Kakaraya. They were given a treat, something which many local and international tourists are familiar with when they go to the province. They say it is “Pasin west.”
For the players who ran onto the pitch for the first time with the FIFA anthem playing in the background, the story was clear just by looking from the outside. It was surely an emotional moment for them, as the NSL chairman said.
“This is a moment you will never forget, the NSL coming to your door step for the very first time and the opportunity to show us what you have.
“Having the NSL in the Highlands and NGI for the first time this year is all about making your football dreams come true,” Chairman Popoitai said.
Kapi Natto challenged the people of NGI to take ownership of the NSL in the region and nurture it as it develops into the future.
“I want you all to see this as your baby, you nurture it so it can grow,” Kapi Natto said.
On behalf of the major sponsors KPHL, senior legal counsel Geoffrey Emang spoke of what it meant for NGI to witness the NSL for the first time adding that KPHL was all about supporting young people living their sporting dreams.
Emang, also a former national representative in the 1980s challenged the players to shine and make the opportunity count.
It was the talk of the day on the streets of Kimbe town, the old and young, the rich and poor, football was the topic and football conquered.
By ISAAC LIRI