The Papua New Guinea U-20 Women’s team have proven themselves worthy ambassadors of their country as they return home from their United States tour, leaving American wantoks and new comrades with a wider perspective on life.
“This has been an amazing trip. I am really proud of this team,” coach Lisa Cole, a USA-native, said.
“It isn’t just about results out on the field but also about the people these young women are becoming and what is possible if we support them,” she added.
Throughout the seven matches against university teams, the team showed noticeable improvement, and the experience gained throughout the tour is invaluable to the young side as they approach the top tier of football.
Their final match against Georgetown University drew a large crowd of US-based wantoks including American minister Rev. Stephen Michael Leach, whose ministry (SML Ministries) is widely followed within Papua New Guinea, His Excellency PNG Ambassador to the US Rupa Mulina, businessman Mathew Wari, acclaimed photographer Patrick Leahy, and many others.
The PNG team honoured the crowd with a spontaneous presentation of traditional dancing and singing in various PNG languages, complete with the accompanying sound of a handcrafted kundu drum from Papua New Guinea.
“It was my privilege to be able to extend my support to the U-20 PNG women’s soccer team here in my hometown of Washington, DC,” Leach said.
“These young wantok women from across the nation I hold beloved represent the hopes of us all who pray for a more perfect Papua New Guinea,” he added.
The matches were paramount in the learning and development of not only the PNG team, but also the women in the US university teams, who were able to experience a culture as exotic as Papua New Guinea’s through football.
Pennsylvania State University Women’s associate head coach Ann Cook helped in the preparation of the match between PSU and PNG, and was inspired to witness football being used as a medium for two completely different cultures to come together to learn and develop.
“It’s such a cool reminder of the bridge that soccer can play for people,” she said.
“Obviously it’s the world’s game, but it’s a medium through which we can communicate no matter what our circumstance is,” she added.
“The only difference between our team and their team is the opportunities that we’ve been afforded.
“I hope that we’ll have an appreciation for the fact that the world is a little bit bigger than the United States and that we take so many things for granted.
“Having the field, having this great stadium, having coaches that know what they’re talking about every day. For these guys that’s not the case.”
PSU player Elizabeth Ball was also enlightened by the experience.
“It was an awesome experience to get to play with these girls,” she said.
“They made us better and we made them better. It was cool because they’re training for a World Cup and we’re training for a national championship so we have similar goals, and it was awesome just to get to play with them and experience a new kind of soccer,” she added.
“It’s incredible because they have so much less than us and honestly they had way more energy than us.
“They have an excitement for the game that you just don’t see every day here and it made us take a step back and just be so grateful for everything that we have.”
Returned safely back to PNG, the team will now turn their focus to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Port Moresby, another stage for them to use their talent and drive to inspire others.
For more on Papua New Guinea football visit www.pngfootball.com.pg