(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Photoek. AS Academy Féminine’s Laëtitia Leme celebrates at the OFC Women’s Champions League)
Fresh off a successful OFC Women’s Champions League campaign, New Caledonia’s three AS Academy Féminine players are hoping to keep the momentum going as they head to Fiji for the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
Louise Luepak, Ronaldine Hnaune and Laëtita Leme were key figures in their club side’s tournament victory in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea earlier this month and are confident the success they enjoyed can have a positive impact as they seek to add a national team triumph to their resumes.
“It was an honour to be part of this team (ASAF) and to represent our country and club at the OFC Women’s Champions League, it was a great experience,” Leme said.
“It helped us improve as players and develop both professionally and personally, as well as showing how well women can play,” she added.
For some of the team, it was a unique experience travelling abroad with their club team for the first time ever and having the opportunity to play against teams from other areas of the Oceania region.
“My favourite memory was our first goal of the tournament,” Hnaume said. “Seeing all the happiness and emotions from our friends and family back home.”
There hasn’t been much time to recover though, with the players arriving home from Papua New Guinea last Sunday and flying out to Auckland for a training camp the following day.
“We didn’t have much time to rest but we’re excited to continue our journey,” Luepak said.
Despite the very short turnaround, it is hoped that success at club level will help propel New Caledonia’s side in Fiji.
“Winning helped to build our confidence and has given some extra motivation to the others girls in the squad. Our team mates have been asking us about Papua New Guinea and our experiences there,” continued Leme.
As well as aiming for the title at the U-19 Women’s Championship, the players are also happy to be part of the growing popularity and success of women’s football in the pacific region.
“We’re all very happy that the women’s game is growing and seeing more positivity and promotion of women’s football,” remarked Luepak.
“We definitely have more fans following us now!”
When asked who they’ll be supporting in the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup…?
“Australia and New Zealand!”
New Caledonia have been drawn in Group A, alongside Samoa, Vanuatu and Tonga.
1200, v Samoa (Churchill Park, Lautoka)
1200, v Vanuatu (Churchill Park, Lautoka)
1200, v Tonga (Churchill Park, Lautoka)