Papua New Guinea has never been short on playing numbers with a population of more than seven million and approximately 200,000 who play the game. But the country’s developing status and the geographical challenges of its landscape continue to prove an obstacle for football development.
The Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA), established in 1962 and affiliated to FIFA shortly after, is working hard to overcome these challenges. The PNGFA have taken a national approach where previously the focus had been regional and at times fractionalised. The National Soccer League was introduced in 2006 and despite significant logistical challenges has continued to run successfully.
Football has a huge following in Papua New Guinea but also competes with rugby league which is known as the No 1 sport in the country. Despite the popularity of rugby league, the PNGFA has made some positive inroads ensuring football continues to grow and develop.
Football provided Papua New Guinea with memorable sporting moments in 2016, including when the country hosted the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Port Moresby and then the men’s national team made the final of the OFC Nations Cup for the first time, pushing defending champions New Zealand all the way before eventually losing in a penalty shoot-out.
The hosting of a successful and well-organised FIFA World Cup and finishing second to New Zealand in the OFC Nations Cup set a high benchmark for PNG football. In the women’s game, participating in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup has opened the way forward for women’s football in the country.
Papua New Guinea’s senior women’s team re-established their status in the region as they secured their fifth-consecutive Pacific Games gold medal in Samoa in 2019 while their men’s team went down to Fiji in the bronze medal playoff.
Hekari Football Association President John Kapi Natto was elected PNGFA President in October 2018 and brought the sport of football in Papua New Guinea together as he championed a number of reforms.
Since being elected into office, he has overseen the improvement of the governance structure of PNGFA, including the passing of new statutes in December 2019. PNGFA has seen the handover of the PNG Football Stadium by PNG Sports Foundation for a 99-year lease where fans gather every weekend to watch the domestic competition.
In June 2020 at the 16th Ordinary Congress, Kapi Natto was given the mandate to again lead Papua New Guinea football for another four-year term as he was elected unopposed.
Apart from the election of the PNGFA president, the Congress also elected new Executive Committee members comprising of a Vice President representing the four respective regions, a women’s football committee member and four ordinary members, as per the new PNGFA statutes.
The Vice Presidents are Siegfried Beschel (Momase), Francis Ank (Highlands), Morea Vavine (Southern), and Justine Helele (NGI). The four ordinary members are Jack Nawi Changau (NGI), Joshua Kayengkim (Southern), Diana Ulka Uran (Highlands), and Jackson Varcili (Momase), while Jean Gariki is the women’s football representative.