The country is one of ten competing in the tournament, which takes place in Auckland from January 8 to 19, and Davani’s young charges will be seeking to follow in the footsteps of the last Papua New Guinea side to have taken part in an OFC tournament.
The national women’s team performed well at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in Auckland during September and October and made it all the way to the final, where they were defeated by hosts New Zealand.
For the U-17 men’s event, Papua New Guinea have been drawn in Group A and will face defending champions New Zealand, American Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu while Group B consists of Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Tonga.
The teams in each group will play each other once – each team will also have a bye – before the final and 3rd/4th playoff games take place on January 19. The champions will go on to tackle the best young players on the planet at the FIFA finals in Mexico next June and July.
Davani and assistant coach Lesley Babaga cast their eyes over 41 players hoping to take their country to Mexico during a training camp last month, after which the squad was trimmed to a final 20.
These players will now be under full-time training for the next month before their departure to Auckland in early January.
Davani says his side have been handed a difficult draw but believes they are in a confident frame of mind and will be up to the task.
“The boys are all geared up to take on their first opponent in a tough pool in Auckland,” he says.
The Papua New Guineans will certainly not be lacking in the inspiration stakes as they look to motivate themselves for the event. In addition to the national women’s team’s recent success, Port Moresby-based club Hekari United have just competed at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The OFC representatives lost their only match of the tournament 3-0 against hosts Al Wahda but Davani says their deeds have still shown his youngsters that it is possible for players from the nation to compete on the world stage.
“We have all been inspired by the success of Hekari,” he says.
Papua New Guinea squad for OFC U-17 Championship
Goalkeepers: Charlie LEPANI, Benjamin WILBERT
Defenders: Ayrton YAGAS, John RAY, Philip STEVEN, Abel REDENUT, Papalau AWELE, David MADAI
Midfielders: Daniel TAYLOR, Jason FAROCK, Darren STEVEN, Samson POESI, Numah KILA, Brian BALEP, Jacob SABUA, Billy EDWARDS
Strikers: David BROWNE, Rodney MOBIHA, Rhodly MAGO, Alwin KOMOLONG