Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2015 OFC Champions League Preliminary > Moala confident experience will count

Moala confident experience will count

They remain the only Tongan club to appear in any form of Oceania’s premier club competition and next week signals their third consecutive appearance in the preliminary round.
Having been part of the squad in each of the previous two tournaments Lotoha’apai United stalwart Lafaele Moala is confident of his side’s chances this time around.
“Lotoha’apai United has made a lot of progress over the years,” Moala says.
“We used to get beaten 8- to 10-0 in international competitions but now we are a bit more competitive and now can even beat our opponents like the Cook Islands, American Samoa or Samoa.
“We’ve made good progress despite football being the second most popular sport in Tonga.”
Moala says there are a number of factors that have come into Lotoha’apai’s domestic success with the club’s player development pathway one of the key factors.
“The secret to our success at home is that we have our own village competition, and we have our own youth development programme,” he explains.
“We always have new players coming through from Just Play to U-13 and U-15 as well. Other clubs lack that so when their players get old and retire, the new generation comes up but they can’t close that gap.”
With Lotoha’apai’ United’s opponents in this year’s edition all making their tournament debuts, experience will once again come into play for the Tongan champions.
“I think the new teams coming in this year is a refreshment, we’re looking forward to taking them on,” he says.
“We all have the same goal but everything will be decided on the field and hopefully our experience in this competition will be what gives us the edge this time around.”
Tonga played host to the 2012/13 edition of the Preliminary and despite Lotoha’apai matching the Cook Islands’ Tupapa Maraerenga on points, missed out on the play-off round on goal difference.
In 2013-14 the Tongan side were undone by Tupapa Maraerenga 3-0 and a fierce display against eventual winners Kiwi FC of Samoa saw them edged 4-2 to finish third on the table.
It was a disappointing end for the side, but Moala says given the clubs propensity to field only local players, they can continue to hold their heads high.
“Other teams bringing in overseas players to bolster their squads is good for them, but it’s not something Lotoha’apai United believes in doing,” he says.
“We believe that if we brought in overseas players to win a game or a competition it wouldn’t have the same feeling as if we did it with our local players.”
Part of the development pathway and the decision to stick with local players means there are opportunities for up-and-coming footballers to enter the fray.
While Lotoha’apai United will rely heavily on the players that have made up the squad over the last two years, Moala is pleased the team can offer spots to young players like Hemaloto Polovili and Soakai Vea.
The two players have visited New Zealand three-times in the past two years spending time in camp with Coerver in Auckland as well as in Christchurch and Wellington with the Asia Pacific Football Academy and Wellington Phoenix Football Academy.
“It’s a bonus for the team to be able to bring players like these two with us to Samoa. We knowm them and understand them as they have come through Lotoha’apai United and it’s positive for the future of the club to bring them with us.”
Just one week out from what Moala hopes will be an historic tournament for his side, Lotoha’apai United are entering the final stage of preparations.
“We have been preparing for a few months, training once a week as the rugby tournament has been going on and players were busy with that.
“Now we are up to training twice-a-day from Monday to Saturday and have lined up some friendlies against local sides for practice.
“The results will come later, but for now I know the team and all the players are very well prepared.”
Lotoha’apai United open the 2014-15 OFC Champions League Preliminary on 7 October at 7pm against Samoa club champions Lupe Ole Soaga at J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia, Samoa.

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