Group D of the OFC Champions League kicks-off tomorrow in Papeete, Tahiti with two sides – Rewa and Erakor Golden Star – set to make their first appearances in the region’s premier international club competition alongside old hats and hosts AS Tefana and Marist FC.
The matches are being held at Stade Pater, recent host to the final of the OFC U-17 Championship, with the action getting underway on Saturday 11 March local time (12 March NZT).
Solomon Islands club champions Marist, with Brazilian Juliano Schmeling at the helm, took out their domestic competition and hope to bring the same level of determination and talent to their opening match against Fiji’s Rewa.
The team is littered with international talent from across the region including national futsal team members James Egeta, Robert Laua and Jeffery Bule to Papua New Guinea defender Koriak Upaiga.
Schmeling has also called on the talent of several fellow countrymen to strengthen the squad, a move his opponents Rewa have also made.
“I think when you talk about Brazil, especially in football, a lot of people expect they will make a difference,” Schmeling said of the expected impact of his recruits.
“I believe they will perform well and I hope they can make a difference in our favour.
“But I also believe in the talent of our team – our local players, plus the Brazilians and Papua New Guinea players – and I hope the combination between all of them will work for us tomorrow.”
Rewa coach Marika Rodu, currently working on attaining his OFC A Licence, has brought in three Brazilians to bolster a squad that boasts Iosefo Verevou, the first Fijian to score at a FIFA age-group tournament, and his former U-20 teammate Tevita Warnaivalu.
Rodu said his side has made some great inroads during their preparations for the competition and they’re now ready to compete.
“We feel it’s good to be here, this competition is of a very high calibre and we’re here to compete,” Rodu said.
The Fijian said the addition of the foreign players was to fill some perceived gaps in the line-up.
“We thought there were some areas we needed to catch up on before coming here so we brought these players in to improve the structure of the team for this particular event.”
In the late match, Vanuatu club champions Erakor Golden Star will take on the might of AS Tefana, a side whose experience makes them strong favourites to top the group.
However, the Vanuatu side led by former international Etienne Mermer is rife with talented individuals who have come together well domestically to develop into a force to be reckoned with.
“As with every team there are some big players, some players that are in the national team and Erakor is the same,” Mermer explained.
“It’s a young side, but also one which has some experienced players including several Kaltaks, who we hope will be good for the team in this level of competition.”
Erakor have been in Tahiti for a week now and getting used to the hot and humid conditions has been a priority for the side.
“I think it was a great idea to come a week early and prepare in the conditions for this competition,” Mermer said.
“It’s difficult to adapt to but we will be ready for Tefana tomorrow.”
Tefana’s assistant coach and former professional footballer Pascal Vahirua said his side, and football fans in Tahiti, are excited to be welcoming the three Champions League newcomers to Tahiti.
“Before anything I would like to wish a warm welcome to the delegations who have given us the honour of coming here to French Polynesia,” he said.
Vahirua outlined the side’s objective is to win, but also to provide opportunities for their players to advance their football careers.
“We haven’t called in any foreign reinforcements,” he said.
“That’s for financial reasons but also because we are thinking about our players and our belief in them.
“We wish to see more Tahitians go on to have international careers, and to see that the level of Polynesian football can progress.”
Marist vs. Rewa
Saturday 11 March
Vital Statistics: Three nationalities are represented in Marist’s squad – Solomon Islands, Brazil and Papua New Guinea.
The Players: Goalkeeper Phillip Mango has been making a name for himself as a versatile gloveman having represented Solomon Islands at the FIFA Futsal World Cup and the OFC Nations Cup in 2016. Papua New Guinea defender Koriak Upaiga will bring his exceptional talent and experience to a backline that will relish his unique and effective style.
Coach Quote: “It will be a tough game and I hope we can have a nice performance from our side. I’m especially excited because after doing futsal in the Pacific and Oceania region, now to be part of football is an honour for me and I hope we can get through this group.”
Marist FC: 1. Phillip MANGO (GK), 2. James EGETA, 3. Michael BOSO, 4. Andre RIBEIRO MOROSINI, 5. Jeffery BULE, 6. Koriak UPAIGA, 7. Atkin KAUA, 8. Timothy BAKALE, 9. Guilherme SOARES GUEDES DE FREITAS, 10. Djair VEIGA FRANCISO JNR, 11. Abraham INIGA, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13. Robert LAUA, 14. Martin SALEIMANU, 15. Natanela BERO, 16. Mathias IANI, 17. Rueben DOUGLAS, 18. Tutizama TANITO, 19. Joachim KAIRI, 20. Joel PAKA, 21. John ROFETA, 22. Michael KOUMA (GK), 23. Thomas TALOGA
Coach: Juliano SCHMELING (BRA)
Vital Statistics: Goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau made his first appearance in Oceania’s premier international club competition in 2006 with the Nokia Eagles.
The Players: Iosefo Verevou is a proved goalscorer at domestic and international level. He’s got a keen eye and a great touch making him tough for defenders to contain.
Coach Quote: “It’s an honour for us to be here, we want to compete well and we want to top the group if we can.”
Rewa FC: 1. Simione TAMANISAU (GK), 2. Peniame DROVA, 3. Lorima DAU, 4. Josateki TAMUDU, 5. Mitieli MANUKA, 6. Deigo GALVAO, 7. Usaia TADAU, 8. Marcelo TANNUS, 9. Iosefo VEREVOU, 10. Savenaca NAKALEVU, 11. Madhwan GOUNDER, 12. Tevita WARANAIVALU, 13. Kohei MATSUMOTO, 14. Epeli SAUKURU, 15. Elias SILVA, 16. Amani MAKOE, 17. Posiano KALISITO, 18. Taione KEREVANUA, 19. Vuniuni TIKOMAIMEREKE, 20. Samuela KAUTOGA, 21. Manasa WAQAVOU (GK), 22. Epeli LOANICEVA (GK), 23. Bruce HUGHES
Coach: Marika RODU (FIJ)
Erakor Golden Star vs. AS Tefana
Saturday 11 March
Erakor Golden Star [VAN]
Vital Statistics: The side features five members of the extended Kaltak family including Kaltfer, who appeared in the 2016 OFC U-20 Championship in Port Vila last year.
The Players: Jason Thomas was outstanding at the centre of defence for the Vanuatu U-20 squad when they qualified for their first FIFA tournament late last year. With Brian Kaltack alongside him at the centre of defence, Erakor has themselves the makings of a very strong backline.
Coach Quote: “Tefana has had a lot more opportunities in this competition than the three other teams but we need to stay calm, player our game and make sure our players are prepared mentally and physically, that they know the game plan, our tactics. From there we will see what happens when we play our first match against Tefana – the group favourites.”
Erakor Golden Star: 1. Serge DANIEL (GK), 2. Brian KALTACK, 3. Michel KALTAK, 4. Jacques WANEMUT, 5. Jason THOMAS, 6. Jesse KALOPONG, 7. Robert TOUKOUNE, 8. Kaltfer KALTAK, 9. Anderson TAKAU, 10. Kalserei ARSEN, 11. Nemani ROQARA, 12. Gershom KALSONG, 13. Lucien HINGE, 14. Jean KALTAK, 15. Tonly KALOTANG, 16. Bernard DANIEL, 17. Jacky RUBEN, 18. Barry MANSALE, 19. Tony KALTACK, 20. Johnny KALORUS, 22. Chikau MANSALE
Coach: Etienne MERMER (VAN)
AS Tefana [TAH]
Vital Statistics: The club made their first OFC Champions League appearance in 2011 and a year later made their way to the final where they narrowly lost to Auckland City FC. This year’s edition marks their fifth OFC Champions League campaign.
The Players: Jonathan, Alvin and Lorenzo Tehau are always consistent for both club and country. In general this is an experienced side and the Tehau trio could well be the difference when it comes to scoring the goals they’ll need to top the group.
Assistant Coach Quote: “We have been patient but now is our time. On the field the truth will be revealed and that is where we must play to win.”
AS Tefana: 1. Stevens HIRIGA (GK), 2. Farearii TUTEINA, 3. Taumihau TIATIA, 4. Tehevarii LUDIVION, 5. Viritua TIAIHO, 6. Tunoa TEVAERAI, 7. Temarii TINORUA, 8. Jess HOROI, 9. Tehina TEMORERE, 10. Tautua LUCAS, 11. Sylvain GRAGLIA, 12. Alvin TEHAU, 13. Stanley ATANI, 14. Jonathan TEHAU, 15. Jean Claude CHANG KOEI CHANG, 16. Manutea TAAE, 18. Kaena ONUU, 19. Heimano BOUREBARE, 22. Nicolas VALLAR, 23. Moana PITO (GK), 25. Toriki GUYOT, 29. Mikael ROCHE (GK), 30. Lorenzo TEHAU
Coach: Sébastian LABAYEN (TAH)
Assistant Coach: Pascal VAHIRUA (TAH)
- Note – this article has been updated to reflect the fact that Marist FC appeared in the OFC Club Championship, a predecessor to the OFC Champions League, previously in 2006, 2007 and 2010.