Ataga leading from the front

Lupe Ole Soaga's Suivai Ataga.

Lupe Ole Soaga are feeling confident ahead of tomorrow’s match with seasoned goal scorer Suivai Ataga wearing the captain’s armband after proving dominant in their first matches of the 2017 OFC Champions League Qualifier.

Ataga is the only player in the competition to score against table leaders Puaikura FC, closing the goal margin in the second half of their 2-1 loss to the Cook Islands champions on Tuesday.

“I tried my best to get a goal in that game because I really wanted the win. I wanted to get a goal for my family, and for Samoa,” he said.

The striker is also one of the few players to represent Lupe Ole Soaga in their previous OFC Champions League campaign, where the Samoans won the qualifier and went on to draw 3-3 against Tahiti champions AS Pirae in a historic match for Ataga’s club and country.

“The whole team was so happy,” he said.

“After the game we were all excited about the result because we knew Tahiti made the semi-final in the previous Champions League.

“Pirae was one of the best clubs in Oceania so it was a really good feeling and a really good result for us.”

The memory is even sweeter for the 29-year-old, having contributed one of the three for Lupe Ole Soaga.

“I really tried to step up in that game because we were coming from behind. We all worked really hard to earn the equaliser.”

Previous to his OFC Champions League campaign, Ataga appeared on the international stage with the Samoa national team in the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.

“I was very happy to be there in the Solomon Islands. It was good to represent Samoa and play against great players from other countries.”

“It was a really good experience for me, and I’ve worked hard to pass on that experience to the boys here.”

With the team’s captain serving a one-match stand down, Ataga is determined to do his best to fill Lapalapa Toni’s shoes in their qualification deciding match against Veitongo FC tomorrow.

“I’m excited about tomorrow. I’m going to have to step up to lead the boys now that I’m replacing Lapalapa as captain as he’s suspended for his red card, but I’m excited,” he said.

“We can’t wait for tomorrow, for that last chance.”

Lupe Ole Soaga will play Veitongo FC to determine who will join Puaikura FC at the 2017 OFC Champions League at Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa, Tonga at 3pm (local time) on 3 February.

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