Papua New Guinea international Nigel Dabingyaba has helped turn the fortunes of his new club Penang around scoring the lone goal in their 1-0 victory over MPKB-BRI FC in the second round of the Malyasian FA Cup.
The victory ends a four-match losing streak for the club and comes in just his second appearance – the first as a starter.
The goal came in the 40th minute, topping off a great performance from the OFC Nations Cup runner-up.
The 24-year-old Papua New Guinean picked up an injury in his final pre-season match which saw him miss the first three matches of the Malaysian Super League season.
His debut last week makes him the first Papua New Guinean to play at a professional level since Manis Lamond graced the Australian National Soccer League in the 80s and 90s.
Ahead of his debut, Dabingyaba acknowledged things would be much tougher than he was used to coming into a professional league from the amateur environment he’s used to.
“I know it’s going to be tough because I am now playing at a professional level, but I want to stay positive every day and improve on and off the pitch,” he said.
“I left school in 2011 with a dream to become a professional football player and now I’ve been blessed by god to achieve that dream.
“I want to be a good ambassador for my country so the other clubs in Malaysia will consider bringing players from Papua New Guinea in the future.”
Assistant coach for the Papua New Guinea national side, Reggie Davani, speaks very highly of Dabingyaba and his ability to excel in his career.
“As a person, Nigel is mentally tough, dedicated and driven to succeed,” Davani explained.
“I wanted to push him because of the type of person he is – dedicated to his craft, down-to-earth and willing to sacrifice to ensure that success.”
Davani is no stranger to the characteristics required to pursue a life in football with his 15-year career taking him from Australia and New Zealand to the UK and Vietnam.
“I hope that Nigel is the first of many Papua New Guineans to follow this path, and maybe a this is a stepping stone to bigger leagues in Asia and maybe further afield.
“Papua New Guinea is a gateway to Asia and South-East Asia especially is an attractive place for our players. I believe our talent is just as good as the foreign imports being brought in from other parts of the world.”
Davani said the support of the Papua New Guinea Football Association has been crucial in getting Dabingyaba out of Papua New Guinea.
“I’d like to thank PNGFA for assisting with the administration work for Nigel’s time in both Australia and New Zealand. The short stints in those countries has given him the grounding before making that step up to the professional scene.”
Additional reporting: Centoro Sport PNG