AS Venus players are taking a hands-on approach to ensure their home ground, Stade Mahina in Tahiti, is ready to host Group D of the OFC Champions League that gets underway on Sunday.
Venus squad members Kevin Barbe, Tamatoa Tetauira, and Tefai Faehau were among a crew of locals painting the changing rooms and other parts of the stadium in Mahine on Wednesday. Athletes from other sporting codes under the AS Venus banner were also there to help.
Fiji’s Ba FC open Group D on Sunday at 5pm (TAH time) when they meet New Zealand’s Auckland City before Venus play Samoan qualifiers Lupe Ole Soaga SC at 8pm.
Faehau said there was a strong bond in the sporting club, which was reflected in everyone’s willingness to pitch in, even Venus coach Sam Garcia was spotted with a water blaster cleaning a fence behind the goal.
“It’s a really good community here at the club. The population is behind us, the village of Mahina is supporting us with this event. They’ve put in place human resources and logistical support which has been really good for us and has given us confidence here at the club,” Faehau said.
“It’s really heart-warming, the support the community has put behind us, and it’s a good sign for the competition ahead.”
Venus last qualified for the OFC Champions League in 2018 but were eliminated at the group stages and they find themselves in an intriguing pool given the sustained dominance of Auckland City during the past 15 years.
The Navy Blues have won the Champions League nine times and were eliminated in the semifinals last year; they boast a collection of players in their squad who have represented the All Whites, including Logan Rogerson, Clayton Lewis and Tom Doyle.
Despite the presence of Auckland City in the group, Faehau said his team had self-belief and were inspired by the efforts of New Caledonia’s Hienghène Sport who won the Champions League last year.
“Playing at home will definitely be an advantage for us, especially with the support of the public. They’re the 12th man for us and I invite the Mahina community to support us once more, come to the stadium and encourage the team, AS Venus.”
The top two teams from each group in the OFC Champions League will advance to the quarter-finals.