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Hekari skipper banking on home support

Hekari skipper Koriak Upaiga at Thursday night's Group A Press Conference at PNG Football Stadium (Phototek)

Koriak Upaiga believes the vocal support of a big local crowd could provide the vital edge his side will need when Group A of the OFC Champions League 2020 tournament gets underway at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium.

One of the the biggest clubs in Papua New Guinea, Hekari United have a rich and proud Pacific football history including the 2010 OFC Champions League title which was also the first ever regional crown for any team outside of New Zealand or Australia.

However, in recent years the former champions have failed to qualify for Oceania’s premier international club competition, which adds to the growing anticipation in Port Moresby ahead of their return for the first time since 2016.

Captain Upaiga is delighted to be back amongst the region’s top clubs and the 33-year old defender is expecting a full house at Sir John Guise Stadium for his side’s opener against New Zealand tournament debutants Eastern Suburbs AFC on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be involved again and captain the boys after so many years of wait for us, now the boys are ready and geared up for Sunday’s match,” said the inspirational Hekari defender.

“We are all excited and motivated and we just need our supporters to be behind us to heer us on and boost the boys. We are expecting a full house, especially after the 2016 OFC Nations Cup final between PNG and New Zealand at the same venue. We know the PNG supporters will be keen to see another tough match between the representatives of these two countries,” he added.

Upaiga is also adamant Hekari have what it takes to secure group supremacy in a tough Pool A that also includes reigning champions Heinghene Sport from New Caledonia and Vanuatu’s Galaxy FC.

“We have a great team with a good blend of young boys and us experienced players and also some players from overseas like our two Brazilian recruits a boy from Samoa and one from the Solomons. We want to top our group and qualify for the knock-out stages and I’m confident we are good enough to achieve that,” insisted Upaiga.

Hekari United will face Eastern Suburbs AFC on Sunday’s opening match day in Group A at 3pm (local time) at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium.

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