Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Pride, hard work, and unfinished business. It’s all on the line now for the national champions of Papua New Guinea and Aotearoa New Zealand; Hekari United and Auckland United, as they take on one another in the OFC Women’s Champions League 2024 final tomorrow afternoon in Honiara.

The teams are worthy finalists on all counts – scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest, both enduring heat and humidity-infused extra time in their semi-final matches. 

Speaking at the National Stadium in Honiara the day before the final, captains and Head Coaches Marie Kaipu and Ericson Komeng from Hekari United, and Talisha Green and Ben Bate from Auckland United, reflected on the significance of the game for their clubs and communities.

Auckland United captain Green spoke of the honour her team felt being the first representatives from Aotearoa New Zealand at the tournament, and making the final at the first time of asking.

“There’s a big sense of pride around it,” said Green, 

“It’s been a challenging process to get here, it’s been quite long, but we’re glad to be here. We are really excited and pumped for the final, and really want to give it our all.”

With every intention of stopping the newcomers, Hekari United are keen to go one better than last year, having finished runners-up in the 2023 tournament’s round-robin. While they were disappointed not to secure the inaugural title, last year’s experience has stood his side in good stead, says Komeng.

“To get here is a dream come true for the team. We were short last year, but to make it tomorrow against Auckland United is a dream come true for the team.

“The round-robin [format from 2023], playing in groups last year was tough as you have to compete in all the games to be at the top. I think the experience that we got last year helped to push us this time.”

Coming up against an experienced Hekari United champing at the bit to go one better is an experience that Bate hopes will prepare his young side well ahead of tomorrow’s showpiece occasion. 

“It’s about continually building for us. We’re trying to do the best to develop these young players,” he said.

“Development is a huge part of what we’re about, and with that obviously becomes these opportunities as well. There’s another final tomorrow, it’s another great opportunity to get our girls in front of the TV cameras and have that experience so that hopefully if they do go into qualifiers or professional environments, it’s not a new thing for them, they can adjust seamlessly and jump straight in.”

Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek. From left-to-right – Ericson Komeng (Hekari United Head Coach), Marie Kaipu (Hekari United captain), Talisha Green (Auckland United captain), Ben Bate (Auckland United Head Coach).

As the game ticks nearer, both teams are garnering strong support from back home, and know just how significant winning the OFC Women’s Champions League would be, both for the players themselves and for their communities in their respective nations.

“We’ve been working hard back in Papua New Guinea. To represent our country and our families, friends, and our loved ones is an honour,” said Komeng.

“After the pool matches and the semi-final, we started to get a lot of positive comments and news back in Papua New Guina. That’s the thing that we wanted to hear, and it could help bring us over the line over the 90 minutes tomorrow.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Green.

“It’s very inspiring seeing what’s happening back home and what the club are putting on for us in terms of support. It’s really cool to see your mum, dad, family, friends, everyone watching and supporting you.”

Hekari United’s Road to the Final:

Group A: Winners

Semi-Final:  2-0 (AET) win over Labasa Women FC

Top goalscorer: Marie Kaipu, 3


Auckland United’s Road to the Final:

Group B: Winners

Semi-Final: 2-1 (AET) win over Tafea FC

Top goalscorer: Rene Wasi, 3


Watch the final LIVE and FREE on FIFA+