By PATRICIA KEAMO
THE Kumul Petroleum National Soccer League (NSL) will see its 2021 season kick off on Saturday in Port Moresby for the Southern conference matches while the Northern conference games kicks off in Lae.
The season will be officially launched this evening with the unveiling of the KPHL cup and the captains’ parade at the Sir John Guise indoor Stadium in Port Moresby. Saturday’s opening match of the Southern conference triple header will see Hekari United take on Western’s Star Mountain at the Papua New Guinea Football Stadium (11am), while in the Northern conference, reigning champions Lae City will face Morobe Wawens at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium in the Morobe capital.
Led by head coach Erickson Komeng, last season’s third place finishers Hekari will be making a comeback for the cup with the likes of striker Kolu Kepo and veteran David Muta while Star Mountain, who finished seventh in the 2020 season, have been boosted with the inclusion of Basil Jofari and Eaka Philemon formerly of Bougainville.
In Lae, Ian Chow’s Lae City led by coach Bob Morris have boosted their lineup of players from Vitiaz, including the 2020 golden boot winner Jonathan Allen, Yagi Yasasa as well as the recruitment of Nigerian Afonja Jibola.
Wawens on the other hand will be counting on Joshua Panget and Ferdallas Namuesh to start on a high note after finishing ninth out of 10 clubs last season.
Port Moresby’s other matches will see the David Aua-coached Gulf Komara side and Central Dabari clash at 1pm while the match of the day will be played between Southern Youth and Tavur at 3pm.
The Northern conference’s 1pm match will see Madang’s Tusbab Stallions challenging Morobe United, whose side has been boosted with the inclusion of Vitiaz players Russell Chris and Eluid Fugre.
Lae’s main match will see the Northern Youth take on Lae City Dwellers led by Papua New Guinea international and skipper Raymond Gunemba under head coach Peter Gunemba.
With seven teams playing in each conference, a team in the respective regions will be on bye while the others play, for the opening round, Port Moresby Strikers and Sepik are on bye.
While most of the teams in this season are familiar names and others have re-entered after some years, the Youth teams in both conference remain a mystery with little being said on the squads and management.
According to Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA) general secretary Pius Letenge, the two youth teams are the association’s team aligning with their vision of developing youth players.
Their performance against some of the biggest teams in the country’s premier league will show as the season pans out.
With the PNGFA secretariat opting to conference league, this season will see 18 rounds of normal matches running till the end of October before the top four teams in each conference advance to playoffs.
Attempts to get comments from the PNG Sports Foundation’s Pandemic Management Committee on spectators for the games were unsuccessful, however Letenge said there would be no spectators allowed until further notice.
By PATRICIA KEAMO