By Sports Editor PETER PUSAL
THE Papua New Guinea Football Association Congress next month promises to be one of the most anticipated yet.
Incumbent David Chung is facing his stiffest challenge since rising to the post over a decade ago.
John Kapi Natto is the man who has thrown down the gauntlet, taking on Chung, who is now a fully-fledged Fifa heavyweight in the Oceania region.
But this battle for the presidency is not about what goes on outside the country. It is a fight for the trust, respect and hopes of the associations that make up the PNGFA, for it is them who will decide in the end whether Chung stays or goes.
A lot has been achieved in Chung’s tenure as head on PNG soccer, both nationally and internationally.
The 53-year-old is as shrewd as he is wily and has managed to bring the prestigious Women’s Under-20 World Cup to PNG for the first time.
PNG men’s soccer is enjoying a resurgence of late with a finals appearance in the Nations Cup last month as well as steadily improving performances along the way.
Chung’s media releases last week painted a picture of a man who had achieved much at home and abroad for the cause of soccer.
But if he wants to earn the trust of fans, observers and the sporting public at large, then he will have to win the election fairly.
This is something Kapi Natto has called him out on, with several recent moves by Chung angled at tilting the field in his favour.
The first move was last month’s two-year suspension of Lae Football Association’s Roy Kamen, a Kapi Natto supporter, for nothing more than common dissent.
The charge and subsequent ban was blatantly carried out to undermine Kapi Natto’s support base.
The second move was in the opposite direction, with Chung announcing among a raft of initiatives that direct funding would be made available to associations to the tune of K110,000 on application.
The timing of this is particularly worrying as one can easily make the assumption to this being a vote-buying ploy, or at the very least, designed to garner support for the seating president. It could well border on corrupt behaviour but that is for a body other than the PNGFA to decide. Presently, the associations that make up the PNGFA are nervously sitting back to watch how the campaigns of both men take shape.
Kapi Natto’s candidacy is based on his commitment to the country’s flagship soccer competition, the National Soccer League.
No other man has had a profound or continuing influence on the NSL.
He’s earned his stripes in soccer the hard way and has the administrative knowhow and business acumen to accomplish great things as evidence by Hekari United’s qualification to the Club World Cup in 2010.
Whatever the outcome the lead-up to the August elective congress in Kimbe will interesting.
One only hopes that the battle is fought in the true spirit of sportsmanship and fair play.