LAUTOKA – When most people think of great Scottish Football coaches, their minds travel a world away from the island of Papua New Guinea.
PNG’s Scottish coach George Cowie hopes to change all that with a run of eye raising results, which will put his unique combination on the map.
To those who were present at Papua New Guinea’s final training session before their opening match of the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the blend looked like it worked.
Cowie, who was born in Scotland has lived in Papua New Guinea for the last four months to select and prepare a squad that can take Papua New Guinea to the Beijing Olympics in August.
Cowie said the job has already provided it’s fair share of ups and downs, but added that he is ready and his team are prepared for a testing nine days.
“We arrived here on Monday and played a game on Tuesday night against a Suva select side in our first warm up game overseas. For most of the lads in the squad it was their first time playing in a game under lights.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect but the boys did exceptionally well and exceeded all expectations by securing a 1-1 draw and showing a lot of character.”
Cowie and the Papua New Guinea side hit a major setback last week when star striker Alex Davani suffered ligament damage while playing in a match for his Australian side the Brisbane strikers, which ruled him out of the tournament.
“Losing Davani was a big blow as he would have brought a lot of experience with him and is a talented player, but these things happen, and I’m happy with the way the squad has adjusted.
Cowie selected his squad from observing National Soccer League matches in Papua New Guinea, and admits his side has a raw element to it, but also has a lot of talent.
“We need to be more streetwise on the field, which comes with experience. If we can pick up the pace of the game very quickly and adjust accordingly we will be right.
“We’ve worked very hard on our system and all my guys know they’re individual roles. We’re not here to make up the numbers.”
PNG captain David Muta is in doubt for tomorrows match with a groin injury but will face a late fitness test before their first game tomorrow.
The game will share extra meaning for Cowie who was the national team coach of the Solomon Islands for three years before switching allegiance to PNG.
“I have very strong links with the Solomon Islands and I know their players very well. Benjamin Totori, Michael Fifi and Alick Maemae were all in my squad and I know what talents they are and what they can do. I look forward to seeing them.”
Papua New Guinea U-23 at Churchill Park, Lautoka, yesterday
Match Day 1
OFC Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Papua New Guinea vs. Solomon Islands
Kick-off: 19H00hrs (Fiji Time)