After an historic year of developing football and breaking records, the Papua New Guinea national football team was awarded 2017 Team of the Year at the SP Sports Awards in Port Moresby on Saturday.
Running for the past 21 years through the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee, the South Pacific Breweries sponsored ceremony recognises the achievements of Papua New Guinea’s top sporting personalities across 15 different categories.
Papua New Guinea Football Association President David Chung was proud to see coach Flemming Serritslev and the national side acknowledged for their commitment and outstanding achievements – including finishing second in the region’s most prestigious football competition, the OFC Nations Cup.
“It’s a well-deserved win for the players after their commitment and dedication and also the hard working coach who is determined to make it a success for Papua New Guinea,” he said.
“Climbing so many steps from our average world ranking of 184 to reach 156 is a great achievement for the senior men’s team. They have made history for football in PNG.
“The Kapuls are deserved winners of the Team of the Year, congratulations to the team and the coach.”
Receiving the award on behalf of the team captain Michael Foster expressed how proud he was to be a part of the ‘Team of the Year’ and acknowledged the people behind-the-scenes that made the team’s achievements possible.
“I would like to dedicate this award to our coach, management and our families and friends who have committed their time in supporting us,” he said.
“Winning the Team of the Year award means a lot to us as current players and also the former players that were with us when we took part in the OFC Nations Cup last year.
“All the players have been working hard since day one and I think we deserve it.”
The Kapuls’ eligibility for the award – and current world ranking – stems heavily from their outstanding performance at last year’s OFC Nations Cup, which doubled as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers – OFC Stage 2.
Papua New Guinea qualified for the final of the competition for the first time in the history of PNGFA then battled New Zealand to a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes of football. The Kiwis were only able to find the net and win the title in the resulting penalty shootout, but finishing comfortably within the top six at the conclusion of the tournament, Papua New Guinea continued to on to Stage 3 of the OFC qualifiers.
Still in contention for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, Foster believes the award has given the team a perfectly-timed lift in confidence ahead of their final Group B matches against Solomon Islands in the OFC Stage 3 qualifiers next month.
“This is a stepping stone for us too because currently we are in training camp. I think it will boost the morale of the players leading into our qualifiers against the Solomon Islands.”
Papua New Guinea will play Solomon Islands at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara on 9 June and at PNG Football Stadium in Port Moresby on 13 June in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers – OFC Stage 3.