Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2018 OFC Champions League > Qualifier sides ready to launch

Qualifier sides ready to launch

Lupe Ole Soaga are keen to advance to the Group Stage once more. Credit: Alain Vartane

The annual OFC Champions League will get underway Saturday 20 January with two tasty encounters to kick-off the 2018 edition of the competition in American Samoa.

The OFC Champions League 2018 Qualifiers are being held at Pago Park Soccer Stadium in Pago Pago, with the winning side and the runner-up due to earn progression to the Group Stage of Oceania’s premier international club competition.

The Cook Islands and Samoan representatives were the nations who took that honour last year, and this year’s edition opens with the club champions from those same two nations – Tupapa Maraerenga and Lupe Ole Soaga.

After finishing second to Puaikura in 2017, Paul Ualesi’s Lupe are out to return to their former glory at the top of the Qualifier table.

After an excellent domestic season in which they dominated to claim the title, Ualesi said the team has been working hard over the past few months to prepare for another shot at regional glory.

“It always been our aim to win our local national league then to represent Samoa at the OFC Champions League Qualifier,” Ualesi said.

“My boys are all looking forward to the challenge in Pago and we have worked hard on the areas that we needed to improve before the kick-off tomorrow.”

Tupapa Maraerenga have gained the services of a number of players who have experience of this competition both in previous appearances with this club, and also with Puaikura.

Coach Alexander Napa said after the success of last year’s representative, it’s now up to his team to keep the spotlight shining Cook Islands football.

“Puaikura has set a high standard to follow and we don’t think it’s going to be really difficult to maintain that,” Napa said.

“We just have to go out and play the good football that we know we’re capable of, and if we can do the basics right, we can get the results we’re looking for.”

While the side compares themselves with those which have come before it, the focus is just as much internal as it is external.

“We just want to do well and set a precedent for ourselves, set a high bar.

“Just one game at a time is all we doing, what happens after the first game is something we’ll look at once it’s done.”

The second encounter of the day sees the four-time Tonga club champions Veitongo take on the home side Pago Youth SC.

Neither of these clubs can boast great success in this competition with Pago yet to win a match, and Veitongo not faring much better.

However both teams are keen for 2018 to mark a turnaround in the club’s history on the regional stage.

Pago Youth coach Li’atama Amisone Jnr. said playing in Pago lends the squad a certain advantage he hopes they can capitalise on.

“I feel great playing on home soil and I am confident in my team,” he said.

“I hope all the other countries are ready because we’re coming with a bang!”

Tonga coach Timote Moleni has been here several times before with Veitongo and believes if the team puts in the hard work, they can do well.

“We always aim to win but it all depends on the players themselves,” Moleni said.

“Whatever choices they make on the field will decide for us. Not making the right decision always makes things hard for us, but if they stick to our plan then I think we’ll have a good chance.”

Moleni added that both sides rely on local, not overseas-based, players which means they’re quite similar but he thinks his side should have the edge.

“I think we should win our first game. I’m confident we could win.”

Extra Information:

Tupapa Maraerenga [COK] vs. Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM]

Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Saturday 20 January (Sunday 21 January NZT)
Kick-off: 12h00 (local)

Match Officials
Referee: David YAREBOINEN (PNG)
Assistant Referee 1: Denson SALE (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Aswin RAJ (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Peter LINNEY (NZL)


Tupapa Maraerenga

Vital Statistics: Six members of this squad helped former Cook Islands club champions Puaikura FC take top spot in this same competition 12 months ago, including club president Grover Harmon and New Zealand-based Maro Bonsu-Maro, Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri and Samuel Maoate-Cox.

The Players: Geoffrey Strickland made his last OFC Champions League Qualifier appearance in 2013 in Pago Pago before an injury-enforced break. A return to form has led to some impressive stats on the domestic scene, and if we’re lucky, that will continue at Pago Park Soccer Stadium.

Coach Quote: “The Samoan side is always a formidable team. It’s good to get that first difficult one away and I think both teams will be going in determined.”

Team List: 1. Sacha NATHU (GK), 2. Mii JOSEPH, 3. Sean LATIMER, 4. Teina SAVAGE, 5. Roimata KARIKA, 6. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 7. Campbell BEST, 8. Lee HARMON, 9. Geoffrey STRICKLAND, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Maro BONSU-MARO, 12. Willyn KARIKA, 13. Pachok ABBA, 14. Edward BROGAN, 15. Pekay EDWARDS, 16. Hone FOWLER, 17. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)

Coach: Alexander NAPA [COK]

Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM]

Vital Statistics: Lupe Ole Soaga have qualified for the OFC Champions League Qualifier three of the past four seasons, and have progressed to the Group Stage each time.

The Players: After a couple of years away from international football, Andrew ‘Joker’ Setefano is back playing club football in his native Samoa. This bodes well for Lupe defensively with Setefano a proven asset at centre back with speed, agility and an innate understanding of the game.

Coach Quote: “In order to take Samoa’s best to the international qualifiers we have taken on some players from other local clubs that performed well in our National League.”

Team List: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. Vaalii FAALOGO 3. Spencer KELI, 4. Vito LALOATA, 5. Tauati TANOAI, 6. Michael FIFI’I, 7. Lawrie LETUTUSA, 8. Darren ALATINA TALILAI, 9. Samuelu MALO, 10. Lapalapa TONI, 11. Suivai ATAGA, 12. Kareti SOAFA, 13. Vaa TAUALAI, 14. Albert BELL, 15. Faafua ATAGA, 16. Andrew SETEFANO, 17. Ken KEREWI, 18. Bird VAGAIA, 19. Cihan ERBIL, 20. Luki GOSCHE, 21. Kevin AH KUOI, 22. Eti FATU (GK), 23. Johnwesley TEO

Coach: Paul Ualesi (SAM)

Veitongo FC [TGA] vs. Pago Youth SC [ASA]

Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Saturday 20 January (Sunday 21 January NZT)
Kick-off: 15h00 (local)

Referee: Veer SINGH (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Marc SINYEUE (NCL)
Assistant Referee 2: Hayden TUTBURY (NZL)
Fourth Official: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)


Veitongo FC

Vital Statistics: Sione Uhatahi has been on the regional scene for Tonga club football since the first edition of the OFC Champions League Qualifier held in 2012. This year’s event will see him make his seventh appearance in a competition a Tongan club has yet to win.

The Players: With plenty of experienced players in their midst it could be two of the younger members of Veitongo’s squad having the most influence. Soakai Vea and Viliami Tukia are two of Tonga football’s rising stars and will be looking to make their mark.

Coach Quote: Ball play and possession is the key. We will make use of our chances and not give any to them.”

Team List: 1. Semisi OTUKOLO (GK), 2. Sione UHATAHI, 3. Ilalio LEAKONA, 4. Oliveti VAI, 5. Fine MOALA, 8. Laaina TUALAU, 9. Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 10. Viliami TUKIA, 11. Tupou UHATAHI, 12. Viliami TONGAMANA, 13. Ofa KITE, 14. Suliasi LAUHOUA, 15. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 16. Kilifi FAUPULA, 17. Soakai VEA, 18. Tevita TUKIMAKA, 19. Vai LUTU, 21. Siane FAUPULA (GK)

Coach: Timote MOLENI (TGA)

Pago Youth FC

Vital Statistics: Pago Youth have qualified for both editions of the OFC Champions League Qualifier which have been held in American Samoa, the previous edition being in 2013.

The Players: Ruben Luvu Jnr. has been a strong member of any team he’s played in and although he’s been absent from the football scene for a couple of years will no doubt easily slot back into a leading role for his club.

Coach Quote: “Don’t follow anyone’s past, create your own and never give up.”

Team List: 1. Moimoi TUALAULELEI (GK), 2. Poyer SAMUELU (GK), 3. Rambo TAPUI, 4. Gabriel TAUMUA, 5. Elama FA’ATONU, 6. Eugene LEDOUX, 7. Fiatele NIUOKA, 8. Ueli TUALAULELEI, 9. Paul COLLINS, 10. Ryan SAMUELU, 11. Nissan SILAO, 12. Ruben LUVU JNR. 13, Harvey MANU, 14.Joe KOROIADI, 15. Tommy AMISONE, 16. Roy LEDOUX, 17. Pete PETERS, 18. Dustin MAIAVA, 19. Ricky FAAMOANA, 20. Tafiga FAIMALU

Coach: Li’atama AMISONE JNR. (ASA)

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