Soccer’s new dawn


Top tier soccer in Papua New Guinea heads into a new phase with the launch of the new-look National Soccer League yesterday at the Rita Flynn Sporting Complex in Port Moresby.
The revamped competition will involve an unprecedented 27 teams playing in four regional conferences (Southern, Northern, Highlands and New Guinea Islands), an idea which is the brainchild of PNG Football Association president John Kapi Natto.
The competition kicks off tomorrow in the Southern and Northern conferences with the Highlands and NGI to start next month.
Kapi Natto’s vision of developing soccer holistically is being realised with the NSL taking on a larger imprint on the soccer landscape with the involvement of regions previously left out of the NSL catchment.
Present at the launch was Sports Vice-Minister Wesley Raminai, PNGFA general secretary Dimirit Mileng and other executives, NSL chairman Benny Popoitai and representatives of Southern franchises.
Kapi Natto said when he was with the now defunct Football Federation of PNG, he had a vision that football would be united again and having 27 franchises from all four regions of the country participate in the new format was a testament of a united PNGFA.
During the launch Kapi Natto referred to how far the NSL had grown and to finally expand to all four regions of the country for the first time was a milestone for football in spite of having a divided house for two years (2016-2018) which had held back the sport.
“Back in 2006 the NSL was established in Port Moresby, Lae and Madang with only five clubs and they played on a home and away format,” Kapi Natto said.
“The NSL has grown from strength to strength and even though there have been hiccups and challenges along the way, especially over the last two seasons, we’ve managed to come back together.
“When I got elected as PNGFA president on Oct, 27 2018, I said there would be a new look NSL and it would not follow the old structure.
“Now we have regional conferences so we have NSL in all four regions for the first time.
“The PNGFA and NSL are spreading the opportunity around so that everyone can participate,” he said.
“Before we had a NSL that was centralised in certain places only and we had other places complaining about missing out but today we are giving them that opportunity.
“This time we will have a total of 27 clubs participating in the conferences of the new look NSL and we have to have faith to get soccer to all corners of this country.
“It is also the vision and plan of Fifa that football in each member association throughout the world must reach out to all corners rather than being restricted to just one or two areas.
The clubs to take part in the 2019 NSL season include: Southern Conference – Hekari United, Gulf Komara, Eastern Stars, Port Moresby United, Bougainville, Southern Strikers, Star Mountain, Central United; Northern Conference – Toti City, Morobe United, Morobe Wawens, Besta PNG United, Lahi, Markham, Tusbab Stallions, Laiwaden; Highlands Conference – Aporro Mai, Enga Laima, Kagua Erave, Blue Kumuls, Mt Hagen, Simbu; NGI Conference – Chebu AROB, FC Radazz, NBPOL Greengold Liners, West Tribe, Talasea.