Papua New Guinea giants Hekari United will count on the experience and cool heads of their leadership group when they face defending champions Hienghene Sport in a must win match for both sides on Wednesday’s Matchday 2 at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium.
And they won’t have to look much further than their inspirational midfielder Michael Foster, who is ready to step up in order to keep his side’s OFC Champions League hopes alive.
Following defeats on the opening day, both sides will be fighting for their survival in front of a big and vocal crowd which will expect a closely contested and tense encounter.
And the majority of them will be hoping for the 34-year-old Foster to lead by example.
The talismanic international, who currently holds the record for the most games for his country with 27 caps, has plenty of big game experience.
He was part of the 2010 Hekari side that created history by becoming the first side outside of Australia and New Zealand to represent OFC at the FIFA Club World Cup following their title winning campaign in Oceania’s premier club competition.
Unsurprisingly he is delighted to be back to compete again for regional supremacy.
“It’s great to be back in the Champions League. It’s been a while for Hekari so it’s a big bonus for the team and also for the country and the fans as well. We are overwhelmed by the support, it great for the players,” he enthused
But Foster is not here just to make up the numbers and he is ready to take on extra responsibilities to deliver on the big stage.
“Our team has a few experienced players like David Muta, Koriak (Upaiga) plus myself, and with the addition of the two Brazilians and Solomon Island players and Vito (Laloata) from Samoa so together we bring a world of experience,” He explained.
“We share the leadership roles. Between us. Koriak is a defender so he mostly talks to the defenders, David and I are looking after the strikers and midfielders to keep them focussed. We have a lot of new players so we try to prepare them in terms of the level of the competition compared with the league here and what to expect,” explained Foster.
Despite a loss to Eastern Suburbs tin their opener Foster insists the mood in the camp is still very positive and confident.
“We came out happy because we knew we fought till the final whistle, even thou we were a man down we didn’t concede a goal in the second half, so the boys are happy, the first game is gone and we just concentrate on the next one,” he said.
Foster is adamant the local favourites have what it takes to defeat Hienghene Sport and keep their qualification campaign on track.
“Every game is a final to us and after losing the first game we have to be more focussed for the second game. It won’t be easy, we are playing the defending champions. We know they also lost in their first game and I’m pretty sure they are going to come at us hard know. We both want to win the next game so it’s going to be very hard, and we have to prepare ourselves well,” said the Hekari United midfielder.