Jamie Mason probably owed his teammates a goal.
During Lupe Ole Soaga SC’s 6-0 loss to AS Venus in Tahiti on Sunday (TAH time), Mason fired an early header straight into the hands of Venus custodian Teave Teamotuaitau from close range as a great chance went begging.
But the midfielder redeemed himself when he found the back of the net with a well-taken goal in their match against Ba FC on Wednesday night.
Mason’s header turned out to be a valuable one as it set Lupe in motion towards their first win in the group stages of the OFC Champions League as they eventually triumphed 4-3 against the Fijian club.
“I got a bit of stick for the [missed] header in the first one,” Mason said with a grin.
“It’s obviously quite good to repay the favour and get the first one [against Ba], from a little bit further out as well.”
Mason joined Lupe as an import for the Champions League alongside fellow New Zealand-based players Tomas Mosquera and goalkeeper Zane Green. Lupe earned their spot in Group D by winning the Qualifying Stage tournament in January where Green also played and kept two clean sheets.
This is another stop on Mason’s football journey and the 30-year-old previously played for Samoan club Kiwi in the Champions League in 2013-2014, which eventually led to him building the connections that helped him joined Lupe.
He also knows Lupe assistant coach Scott McLeod from a previous playing stint with Lower Hutt City AFC in Wellington.
Mason, who is the sports coordinator and a physical education teacher at Glenfield College in Auckland, said it had been a great experience pulling on the Lupe shirt.
“There is a bit of pressure obviously if you’re going to be coming from another country to play for a club team in Samoa but, honestly, the boys have been really good, they’ve made us feel really welcome.”
The camaraderie has shown through on the pitch and the Lupe players were visibly thrilled when the final whistle went in their historic win over Ba.
“When we got back into the changing rooms, there was a lot of tears, a lot of emotion. We sung a song in Samoan so it means everything to these boys, just the looks on their faces made it worth it.”
Given they lost heavily to Venus, Lupe face an uphill task in their final Group D match at Stade Mahina in Tahiti on Saturday when they meet pool leaders Auckland City FC and they probably need a win to have any chance to advance to the quarter-finals.
But while they might not escape their group, Lupe’s win over Ba, who were quarter-finalists last year, has shown their potential as they look ahead to the future.
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