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Aka relishing YOG challenge

While there have certainly been some bumps in the road, she’s slowly finding her feet in those roles.
She speaks to oceaniafootball.com to share her journey from player to coach, the preparations she’s taken her U-15 team through and her expectations for Nanjing 2014.
OFC Media: You started as a volunteer and have become the Just Play Project Manager for Papua New Guinea and are now coach of the national U-15 team. How have you developed your skills to become such an important asset to football in Papua New Guinea, and women’s football in particular?
Aka: I am passionate about football which stems from when I was a player for 19 long years. Through many years of playing, I developed skills and knowledge from my coaches and fellow players. I played under many different coaches and they, collectively, improved my knowledge of football. I also watched a lot of football on TV and that is how I further developed my understanding of the game.
After joining PNGFA as a volunteer, I was given the opportunity to attend coaching courses. I have so far attended a Grassroots course which is equivalent to the D Licence Part 2 coaching licence, a Women’s Coaching Course, C Licence and English FA Youth Coaching Course. From the courses I attended I developed my skills and knowledge of coaching thanks to the facilitators and instructors and the OFC technical team.
For me personally, making that transition from being a player to a coach was difficult initially but I believe my playing experience under former PNG women’s national coach Francis Moyap played a big part in developing my skills. I am also thankful for the people around me, especially Frederica Sakette, PNGFA Head of Women’s Football, and her husband Timothy, Taku Niebo, PNGFA Technical Director, and the OFC technical team including Patrick Jacquemet, Giovani Fernandes, Nicola Demaine and Didier Chambaron. They have had a lot of influence on my decision to take up coaching. It was through Frederica that I got involved as a volunteer and here I am coaching the U-15 YOG team now.

OFC Media: How are you enjoying the experience of coaching a national team?
Aka: Coaching is not as easy as some people might think. It is challenging and I think for me the word ‘enjoying’ does not really describe how I see coaching. It would be ‘satisfying’, to see players enjoy football.
OFC Media: How are the side’s preparations going?
Aka: A selected side has been in training since April this year. We have had a camp in Goroka and two in Lae. The final preparations have been going well, with a lot of assistance from OFC Women’s Football Development Officer Nicola Demaine.
OFC Media: Where have your players come from? Have they emerged through some of the programmes the PNGFA has in place around the country?
Aka: There’s a lot of talent in the team. Most of the players in the final team came through Member Associations around the country. Port Moresby contributed eight players who were part of the Centre of Excellence programme. Though these girls had already started playing football with their own clubs, they have also been able to benefit from the COE programme run by PNGFA. It’s through this that we identified and selected the Port Moresby contingent of the U-15 squad.
OFC Media: What are your thought on your opponents Venezuela and Slovakia and how will you approach these two sides?
Aka: I cannot say much about any opponents as I have not seen or watched any of their games yet and to make assumptions about opponents would be difficult in that sense. However, I am anticipating and preparing my team to give them a challenge. We will execute our play according to our game plan but with our opponents in mind. Our analysis of their games will also determine how we play against each team and we will have to adjust for each encounter.
OFC Media: It’s the second time Papua New Guinea will represent Oceania at this event after debuting at Singapore 2010, what are your goals for this campaign?
Aka: This event will showcase our young football talents to the world. My aim is for the team to do well and be recognised as a football playing nation. It’s going to be exciting to see how well the girls play against their opponents.
OFC Media: What kind of opportunity is this for these young players?
Aka: It expect it will be an overwhelming experience as I understand it will be the first trip overseas for most of them. I do hope that this opportunity will encourage them to continue playing football and strive to be better footballers in the future.
OFC Media: You mentioned working with OFC Women’s Football Development Officer Nicola Demaine, what has that been like for you?
Aka: It’s been great to have someone like Nicola in the team. She has a lot more experience that myself and she’s contributed heaps to the team and preparations. It’s been great learning coaching tips from her. We have a very good working relationship and understanding. She ois doing more than I ever could have asked for and I’m grateful to have her in my team.
OFC Media: How has her expertise helped you?
Aka: She has been tremendous, providing advice, training plans and schedules for the camps and that made my job a lot easier. I was on the verge of giving up at one point but with her encouragement and support she convinced me to take on the challenge. With her experience, she has been taking the lead in a lot of training activities adn she has been very encouraging and supportive of my role as a coach.
Papua New Guinea Girl’s U-15 will depart for China this weekend ahead of the Youth Olympic Games being held in Nanjing from 14-26 August.
To see the full match schedule for the Youth Olympic Games click here

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