Paama Matatia’s best memory to date of the OFC Champions League was knocking over the always impressive Auckland City FC with former club AS Dragon back in 2013.
Now he’s back on the regional stage making history with first-timers Central Sport and hoping it will be an equally memorable experience.
“It’s a prestigious competition,” Matatia said.
“I remember one particularly difficult match that I played with Dragon against Auckland City. The score was so close at the beginning, but we managed to edge ahead thanks to our determination.
“Auckland is a big team which is always among the favourites and have won the Champions League many times, but they aren’t invincible, and anything can happen in football.”
A versatile player, Matatia said he is most comfortable commanding the backline, but has also been known to take on an attacking role.
“I’m quite a flexible sort of player. I’m a central defender, but because one of our strikers has an injury, I can also play right wing and replace them.”
A quality player who only improve with time, Matatia was an essential cog in the squad as they brushed aside Madang offering pace, vision and strength on and off the ball through the midfield.
“I think if I were to list my qualities as a footballer I would say my speed, my understanding of the game and my physicality in tackles,” he described.
“On the other hand, areas I need to work on is my precision when delivering crosses and aerial situations.”
Being able to identify his strengths and weaknesses is an important aspect of his development according to Matatia who relies on his coach and team mates to assist in improving his approach to the game.
“With the team we have, maybe we can think about winning the title,” he said.
“We have a very supportive environment here and that certainly helps when it comes to development and our goals of achieving something special in the Champions League.”
Matatia said the side is incredibly motivated to follow in the footsteps of Team Wellington, who made the final in their debut year at the OFC Champions League.
“We are all extremely motivated,” Matatia said.
“We have a very tight team, and that’s what gives us our strength.”
As for an upcoming encounter against their much more experienced hosts AS Magenta, Matatia said they’re the one team in the group he’s least concerned about.
“Obviously they are a very good side, but we know them and their style quite well and so we’re not thinking too much about how much experience they have.
“We’re not really looking at any of the teams. We want to stay focused on ourselves, our preparation, to be in the best position possible to win the competition.”
AS Central Sport will play AS Magenta tomorrow at 8pm at Stade Numa Daly in a match that could prove decisive for Group A.