Papua New Guinea’s newest side in the National Soccer League is making history with its progressive approach.
The side has become the first to employ a female as its head coach, with Papua New Guinea’s first OFC B Licence accredited coach Margaret Aka taking that honour.
Aka has assembled a young side to compete in the senior competition as opportunity is a big part of her coaching philosophy.
“I watched a lot of football on TV and I noticed that a lot of professional players come from all over the world, mainly Europe, Africa, South America and maybe a handful from Asia,” she said.
“Most countries in these regions are developing countries like PNG. They invested in kids, football in this case, and have produced superstars.
“It is not impossible. We are just beginning to realise how much potential we have in sports and I hope we can start thinking about the future and invest well in our children.”
Aka’s career began as a player back in 1992 when she joined Sogeri National High School in the Women’s Division 2 of the Port Moresby Soccer Association competition.
She’s played in Australia and in the national team before taking up coaching as a volunteer in 2013.
As well as her OFC B Licence, Aka has an impressive list of achievements to her name including leading a team at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China, and taking the U-17 women’s national team to the final of the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship in 2016.
Although a lot of her previous coaching experience has been in the women’s game, Southern Strikers is not Aka’s first foray into the men’s game.
Her first opportunity came when she led PMSA Division 2 side Erima Flyover last year, taking them all the way to the grand final.
It’s that ability to work with the talent she has which led to her role with Southern Strikers and the decision to put faith in Aka is starting to pay off for the Port Moresby franchise.
The side earned their first victory in the fourth round of the NSL when they downed FC Morobe Wawens 4-3.
To Aka, it was a reminder that perseverance pays off and she hopes the side will continue pushing to improve.
“The plan at half-time was just to get back basics,” she said of being two goals behind their opponents by the break.
“I’m happy with the win but there are still a lot of areas that need improvement.”
OFC Champions League participants Lae City Dwellers and Madang FC sit top and second on the table respectively after four matches. Best PNG United, Morobe Wawens and Southern Strikers each have three points while FC Momase and Buang FC are yet to register their first points of the season.