As excitement builds towards the OFC Champions League 2023, kicking off this weekend, we take a look at some of the players who could catch the eye in Vanuatu in the coming weeks! (Photo Credit: Christophe Fotozz)
Auckland City FC (New Zealand)
The club captain and a current All White, who was in the squad for New Zealand’s recent internationals against China. Howieson is a maestro in midfield, a central figure capable of scoring fantastic goals, lethal from free kicks range and has plenty of experience at club and international level.
Howieson is coming into the the tournament in good form, having scored a brilliant long range effort against Takapuna in the New Zealand Northern League last weekend.
A calming influence on the pitch, the captain will be hoping for a repeat of 2022, where he lifted the trophy for a successful Auckland City side.
Hekari United (Papua New Guinea)
The 26-year-old striker has been a prolific scorer for Hekari United, with his height and pace proving a tough assignment for opposition defences to deal with.
Strong finishing with either foot, Kepo has been capped on seven occasions by the Papua New Guinea national side and, despite not scoring during the OFC Champions League National Play-off round, will be a constant threat in Group B.
Suva FC (Fiji)
One of the more experienced players to watch in this year’s OFC Champions League, Samuela Drudru returns to the stage where he previously starred for both Lautoka FC and Ba FC, respectively.
A classy centre forward, Drudru will be a key focal point in Suva’s attack and will be full of confidence following a recall to the Fiji national team this year.
Solomon Warriors (Solomon Islands)
One to watch not just for this year’s tournament but for many more to come, is Solomon Warriors’ 20-year-old forward, Norman Winford.
An Academy team graduate, Winford combines his pace and quick feet to devastating effect and is equally adept at finding the net with either foot.
AS Tiga Sport (New Caledonia)
Another young player looking to catch the eye this year is AS Tiga Sport’s captain and creative fulcrum, Shene Welepane.
Hailing from the island of Tiga, Welepane provides the platform for AS Tiga Sport to build their attacks on. Goal provider rather than goal scorer, he will be expected to lead the team’s charge in a tough Group B that includes hosts Ifira Black Bird.
Lupe Ole Soaga SC (Samoa)
The 25-year-old striker will provide a timely boost to Lupe Ole Soaga SC’s squad, having missed February’s Qualifying stage where his teammates saw off Ilaoa & To’omata, Veitongo FC and Tupapa Maraerenga FC to book their place in the OFC Champions League 2023.
Formerly of tournament rivals, Hekari United, Laloata will provide a key source of experience for what will be a fairly young and inexperienced side, hoping to make an impact in Vanuatu.
AS Pirae (Tahiti)
Heimano Donovan Bourebare
Perhaps the most experienced player in the tournament, midfielder Heimano Donovan Bourebare captains the AS Pirae side, looking to make it out of a challenging Group B.
A veteran of many OFC Champions League campaigns, Bourebare also has considerable international experience, including representing Tahiti at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 in Brazil, making two appearances, as well as being part of the country’s successful OFC Nations Cup 2012 campaign.
Ifira Black Bird FC (Vanuatu)
Timothy Loic Messeck Boulet
Billed as Ifira Black Bird’s ‘defensive wall’, Boulet will provide the foundation for which the host nation side will hope to build their campaign on.
The 25-year-old has a wealth of experience – having established himself as a key player for the Vanuatu national team – and was integral to Ifira Black Birds’ National play-off success over Siaraga FC in February.