By HENRY MORABANG and GABRIEL LAHOC
PERENNIAL Vanuatu club champions Tafea FC will arrive this afternoon in Port Moresby ahead of their O-League soccer challenge on Saturday against Hekari United FC at Lloyd Robson Oval.
Currently leading pool B, the Ni-Vanuatuans will be looking to progress to their first O-League final.
Runner up in the 1999 and 2000 OFC club championships, the Port Vila-based team has the pedigree to be successful in the premier competition.
Tafea coach Graham Demas will be relying on his Solomon Islands imports Frazer Maebule and Etinne Mermer to support their veterans Francois Sakama and skipper Richard Iwai
With several long-serving players retiring and more within the squad approaching the end of their careers, coach Demas showcase the next generation of Tafea FC stars set to carry on the tradition. Emerging talents such as Michael Kaltak and Silas Namatak would provide the backbone for the future success of the club. Evergreen Sakama continues to win admirers at home and abraod with his consistent performances.
Tafea is currently licking its wound after being thrashed 5-0 by Amical FC last Saturday in Port Vila. Amical FC was led by Batram Suri who played a leading role to cause a major upset in Vanuatu football history.
Hekari franchise owner John Kapi Natto shored up his stocks with the signing of five Solomon Islands internationls including the iconic, former Perth Glory and Auckland City striker Henry Fa’arodo.
The other players are Alick Maemae (utility), Eddy Ngaitim (fullback) Gideon Omokirio (fullback) Stanley Waita (forward).
“I brought these players to do a job and that is to give us a victory,” he said.
Team manageress Vonnie Kapi Natto confirmed that Fijian Lorima Dau was released by club following disciplinary issues.
“We at Hekari are very disciplined and we can’t accept undisciplined players,” she said.
After the 3-3 drawn match in Vanuatu, two coaches Jerry Allen and Tommy Mana are quite aware of what is expected for the visitors and really want to tie them down in offensive and defensive play.
They would be counting on their four prized signings in Henry Fa’arodo, Alick Maemae, Gideon Omokirio and Stanley Waita.
“We have brought in four Solomon Islands national players to instill some experience of high level competition into the team, something which has been lacking for sometime,” Allen said.
Hekari has already two Fijians in Tuimaci Manuca (striker) and Pita Bolaitoga (defender/midfield) along with local players in Samuel Kini, Enoch Abraham, Brian Tuhiana, Cyril Muta, Kema Jack and Godfrey Baniau.
The O-League match will be a clash of skills and endurance from both teams and will be crucial for their standings. The point ladder is as follows: Tafea currently leads with 7 points, Lautoka 6, Hekari 4 while Marist yet to score.