For Michaelyne Butubu scoring in the 48th minute for Hekari United in her side’s 5-0 win over Koloale FC on Friday was a coming-of-age moment.
The 20-year-old from spoke passionately afterwards about the sacrifices her family has made for her over the past two years since she left her home in the Parerono village in the Buin district on the Island of Bougainville to join the Port Moresby based club.
Playing in the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League tournament has been a career highlight for Butubu who has seen her football flourish since joining the powerhouse Port Moresby based club in 2021.
Her coach Ericson Komeng describes her as a “workaholic who loves her football, trains so hard and is one of the fittest players in the team.”
She unleashed a powerful right footed shot into the top corner of the net after the ball was laid back by talismanic stroker Marie Kaipu for her goal and afterwards was overcome with emotions as she described her journey to that moment.
“That was my first goal ever, like in a very big tournament and I thank the coaches in amazement for that. It was a bit hard for me, but I just held my head up and went for the goal and I did it.” She remarked.
Butubu had been first spotted by Hekari scouts two years earlier playing in a school carnival near her home village.
It was a big decision to move away from her closely knit family to the city lights of Port Moresby. Family visits are infrequent and Butubu doesn’t think she will see her parents before Christmas.
“But my sister was watching from the grandstand, and it was a joy having her here. I left my family more than a year and a half ago and I am so proud today. I just want to thank my mum and dad for pushing me forward and they are proud of me playing here.” Butubu beamed.
Butubu says she is thriving in the Hekari United team environment and is thankful to team owner Vonnie Kapi Natto for bringing her in and “exposing my talents.”
“It was scary at first coming to the big city but then I get used to the environment and it’s like home.” Butubu reflected.
“I enjoy playing with them (Hekari) they help me build my football skills and we play together as a team and are sisters in football. I improved myself from the NSL (National Soccer League) and am building my confidence in big tournaments.”
And Butubu hopes the coverage of her exploits at the OFC Women’s Champions League will help inspire kids from her village to take up football.