Striker Raymond Gunemba says the same self-belief that now emanates from the Papua New Guinea national team can be found permeating club level as Lae City Dwellers look to write another chapter in the story of football in Oceania’s most populous nation.
Gunemba, who has scored eight goals in nine OFC Champions League for Lae City Dwellers in their three season rise from also-rans to quarterfinalists – as well as another couple for former Oceania champions Hekari United in a previous stint – was at his pacey and powerful best in the OFC Nations Cup in 2016.
His goal-a-game haul of five earned him the golden boot title and helped propel the Kapuls to their first ever final – where they were edged by New Zealand on penalties.
A key component of that run was a genuine belief in their ability, a belief that the current squad were able to tap into more than ever before.
On Saturday, Lae take on a Team Wellington outfit who have made the OFC Champions League final in each of their three campaigns and who start the match at David Farrington Park as firm favourites. But long gone, Gunemba says, are the days when Papua New Guinea sides would fear teams at either international or club level.
“Previous teams have had big respect,” Gunemba says, “but with the new generation going back to the OFC World Cup qualifiers our mentality is different because we have trust and faith in each other that we can do it, we can beat any team.
“We don’t care if you’re what country you’re from we believe in ourselves that we can play to our best and we can we can beat you.”
Gunemba, 31, says the large crossover in personnel between club and country – including strike partner Niger Dabinyaba – means the same positive attitude is present in Lae City Dwellers as they look to push on from what is already a history-making appearance in the playoffs.
“We have that trusts in ourselves at Lae as well and that’s why we have become champions at home. We have that that belief and that’s why we have achieved the results.
“It’s the first time we have made it to the quarterfinals and we’re trying to cause an upset and create some more history.”
Gunemba also points to faith in a higher power as a component of his own, and his side’s, quiet confidence.
“One of the most important things that the team believe in is God. Our belief in God, our discipline on and off the field those are key factors for us.”
While the temperature in New Zealand’s capital will be about half of what would be expected in Lae, Gunemba is no stranger to New Zealand conditions having played the 2016-17 New Zealand premiership with Hamilton Wanderers, netting one of his five goals against Team Wellington.
“I think I’m ready for the match. I’ve got some small knocks but I’m well prepared for the match against Wellington. I’ve played against New Zealand teams many times it’s not new and I believe God will help me do my best because I get most of my strength from my trust and faith in the Lord.”
The match kicks off at 2pm Saturday (NZT).