Aisa soaring for PNG

Like a bird of paradise, Patrick Aisa celebrates a memorable goal in Tahiti. Credit: OFC via Massimo Colombini

From an early age Patrick Aisa has wanted to be different to those around him.

In fact, it’s one of the reason’s the young Papua New Guinea international picked football over the array of sports on offer.

“In my family there is no other brother or sister playing soccer, it’s just me, myself,” Aisa said.

“I just want to be different in my family.

“I chose football just to be different and I was surprised I was quite good at it. I just want to keep trying to do better and better.”

The choice is now playing dividends for him as he continues soaring to new heights.

Aisa is still a single figure senior international, but he’s played a key role in every single one of his appearances, most tellingly during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers.

In March a stunning strike was the opening goal in what went on to be an historic first-ever victory for Papua New Guinea over Tahiti.

Then on Friday, Aisa was behind the equaliser in a match his side narrowly lost to Solomon Islands at Lawson Tama.

These performances means his unique celebration is now starting to become a regular sight on the international stage.

“In my province, our flag has the bird of paradise, so I put my hands out wide like a bird,” he said.

It’s a celebration that started with his most memorable international match so far – Papua New Guinea’s first ever senior victory over Tahiti in Papeete earlier this year.

“That was my best moment so far, in Tahiti when it was three for us, and one goal was scored by me,” he recalled.

“I can’t forget this moment. I felt like I had done something great for my country.”

Being part of the rise of Papua New Guinea football is important for the 22-year-old Madang striker.

“Scoring goals, like the equaliser in Honiara, it means a lot,” he explained.

“”It gives me some good confidence to play more international matches for my country.”

Aisa said the strength of the side comes down to the family atmosphere created by their Danish coach Flemming Serritslev.

“He’s a loving coach. He gives a lot of advice, but he’s like a dad to us, we’re really proud of him.

“Because we all stay together, we’ve built a good team spirit and we stay as brothers.”

Having the likes of captain Michael Foster and Netherlands-based David Browne to play alongside and learn from gives Aisa something concrete to aspire to.

“I really enjoy playing with my brothers Michael and David,” he said.

“They are experienced and good players, it’s good to be on the field with them.”

Playing matches in front of the opposing teams’ fans is somewhat intimidating for the youngster and it is then that he feels the close knit environment makes a difference.

“Away games are tough, especially for myself as I feel like no-one is at my back but my teammates.”

With one of the most important matches of his international career to date just around the corner, Aisa is hoping that Papua New Guinea will make the most of being at home.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s final 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifier – OFC Stage 3 group match against Solomon Islands.

“We’ll be in front of my home crowd but I plan to give my best in front of my family and friends. I am proud to play on home soil and want to make my country proud too.”

There may be a big hill to climb for the side, with a minimum of five unanswered goals required to keep their world cup dream alive, but there is no shortage of belief from Aisa.

“We can keep going,” he stated.

“Me and my teammates, we’ve talked about this home soil game and we believe that we are going to do it, and do it for our country.”

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