But their dealings are unlikely to be as jovial tomorrow when the sides square off against each other in the vital first leg of the O-League final.
Present at the conference were Amicale coach Luke Eroi and Auckland counterparts Aaron McFarland and Ramon Tribulietx who were joined by the respective captains of each team, Amicale’s Fenedy Masauvakalo and Auckland’s Ivan Vicelich. Each of them were happy to answer the questions of the local media in attendance, who included representatives from many of Vanuatu’s print, radio and television news outlets.
The High Commissioner of New Zealand for Vanuatu, HE William B. Dobbie also spoke at the conference and he congratulated both sides on making the O-League Final on behalf of the New Zealand Government before wishing them good luck.
“There are many things that unite New Zealand and Vanuatu, we both live in the Pacific region and both love sports, including football,” High Commissioner Dobbie said.
“The Auckland and Amicale teams are great representatives of their clubs, their countries and the Pacific region. Whoever wins the O-League Final will go on to represent the Pacific region and OFC at the highest international level, just as the New Zealand team, the All Whites, represented not only their country but also the Pacific region at last year’s FIFA World Cup.”
Auckland co-coach McFarland says his charges have settled in well at Port Vila and are enjoying the glorious sunshine that has greeted them.
“We’ve been given a nice facility out at the Vanuatu Football Federation Academy to train on and have taken the opportunity to have a couple of trainings to fine tune what we’re looking to achieve in tomorrow’s game,” he said.
“We have watched footage of how Amicale play and have a good idea about their style. We’ll look to organise ourselves to play against that.”
Two-time champions City will have experience on their side and McFarland also feels the scorching weather – something many pundits are expecting will give Amicale an edge – will not be too much of a factor.
“The regular competition in the islands has been beneficial to our team. We’ve been able to compete in the heat before so it’s not new to our players to come to these conditions, which are excellent by the way,” he said.
“They’re loving it, what better way to spend a week towards the end of your season.”
Auckland captain Vicelich got the opportunity to come face to face with Masauvakalo – a player he will be seeing plenty more of on Saturday – and says City will have to be on guard to keep out the 2011 O-League’s top scorer.
“We’re hoping he’s not going to score any goals,” he joked, to the amusement of the journalists present.
“He’s done well to score so many because it’s always difficult. But we have to stick to our game plan and do our best to score more.”
In contrast to Auckland’s illustrious past in this competition, Amicale have never made the O-League final and coach Eroi says none of his players can afford to have an off day if they make it onto the field tomorrow.
Eroi is disappointed to have lost the services of star player Alick Maemae, who is in his native Solomon Islands and has not been able to return to Vanuatu for the match due to personal circumstances.
Maemae’s loss will make getting a good result against Auckland – who are the only undefeated side in the tournament and have conceded just two goals in their six matches – even harder but Eroi has plenty of belief in his troops.
“It’s going to be a tough game and we all have a lot of respect for Auckland City,” said Eroi, who hails from the Solomon Islands. “I am happy with how our preparation has gone though and I think we have a good chance.”
There are obviously plenty of others in Port Vila who agree – the stadium is going to be packed to the rafters on Saturday with over 7,000 Amicale fans, most of whom will be proudly brandishing their beloved team’s home strip colour of bright red.
The match kicks off at 3pm local time on Saturday and live text updates, plus radio commentary will be available at oceaniafootball.com.