A big and passionate crowd is expected at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium for Sunday’s opening match day in Group A of the OFC Champions Leaguer 2020 tournament.

Papua New Guinea heavyweights Hekari United will be desperate to prove a point as they return to the region’s premier club competition for the first time since 2016 .

Home advantage should provide a boost to the 2010 champions when they face tournament debutants Eastern Suburbs from New Zealand in their opening match, but coach Jerry Allen says the growing excitement and local expectations also come with added pressure.

“We are going into the competition confident and we know we will have great support but we also feel the weight of expectations. We are representing PNG with a population of almost 9 million and that comes with pressure, we will just need to work hard and give our very best,” Allen said.

“Eastern Suburbs will be a tough opponent, I know how New Zealand teams play, I spent almost five years there so I know the style of New Zealand football, and I expect a good game on Sunday,” he added.

Hekari will field a team with a good mix of youth complimenting experienced heads such as David Muta and Michael Foster and international recruits, Erick Joe and Vinicius Reis Kryzozun from Brazil, Solomon Islands midfielder Junior David and Samoan defender Vito Laloata.

Meanwhile Eastern Suburbs from Auckland can’t wait to embark on their maiden Pacific football journey.

The current New Zealand domestic title holders are only the fourth Kiwi team to play in the OFC Champions League, joining nine-time champions Auckland City, twice-winners Waitakere United and 2018 champions Team Wellington.

Eastern Suburbs are right in the middle of their domestic season and arrived in Port Moresby with an almost fully fit squad.

Their good recent form in the New Zealand league will give Tony Reading’s troops plenty of confidence and the English coach says his side can’t wait for their opening challenge against the local favourites.

“We have done plenty of work on Hekari, we know they are a good team, obviously they have the advantage of playing at home, they understand the conditions, they will have the crowd behind them,” Readings explained.

“But that’s why we want to be in this competition, we want to play the best teams, we want to play in front of the biggest crowds and want to have the biggest challenges we can. It doesn’t come any bigger than this, so we are looking forward to it,” added the Eastern Suburb coach.

Meanwhile in the opening fixture of Match Day 1, tournament newcomers Galaxy FC are facing a daunting Champions league debut against defending champions Hienghene Sport.

Despite assembling a squad of both young and experienced players including Bong Kalo and Solomon Islands internationals Gagame Feni and Nelson Sale, the Vanuatu champions are under no illusion about the challenge ahead.

Coach Batram Suri believes his side will be the least fancied in Group A, but he insists that will not impact on their dreams of reaching the next stage.

“It’s very tough competition, for me this is the ‘group of death’ but we are happy to be here and challenge some of the best teams in Oceania. I see our team as the underdog that nobody knows, it’s out first time here but we are well prepared and look forward to test ourselves,” he insisted

“Our first match against the defending champions will be very tough but we are happy to come up against them and confident we can challenge them.  We are ready and we are looking forward to testing ourselves,” explained the Galaxy coach.

2019 was a memorable year for Hienghene Sport with the New Caledonians in dominant form both at Oceania and domestic level before proudly representing OFC at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar.

Keen to build on last season’s success, Felix Tagawa’s men have arrived in Papua New Guinea more determined than ever to secure back-to-back titles in their quest to once again earn the right to fly Oceania’s flag at a FIFA event.

Led by their talismanic captain Bertrand Kai, who will be well supported by the likes of inspirational goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine, and his experienced teammates including Cedric Sansot, Georges Wakanumune, Amy Antoine Roine and Roy Kayara just to mention a few, Felix Tagawa’s men will again shape up as the team to beat.

The Hienghene coach, however, insists his side will not rest on their laurels.

“We forgot about last season and the success we had. It is a brand new competition and like everyone else we have to work hard mentally and physically to prove ourselves again,” Tagawa explained

“We can’t afford to underestimate our opponents, it’s a top competition and Galaxy are here on merit, we want to start well on Sunday and we know we will have to concentrate very hard if we want to come out as winners at the end,” the Hienghene coach added.

Additional Information

Galaxy FC vs Hienghene Sport
Sunday 16 February
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, KO: 12:00

Click on link for the live stream:

Match Officials
Referee: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Johnny NIABO (SOL)
Fourth Official: Deepak RAJ (FIJ)

Galaxy FC  – 1. Seiloni IARUEL,  3. Diego  MAXIMO, 4. Moli VUTI, 5. Joseph IARUEL, 6. Ignace YAMACK, 7. Gagame FENI, 9. Terence CARTER, 10. Roberson DOS SANTOS RIBIERO, 11. Bong KALO, 14. Henry NAMATAK, 15. Alphonsee LENCY,  17. Nelson SALE, 18. Barry MANSALE,  20. Selwyn VATU, 21. Ruben FRANK,  22. Malakai MAKITO, 23. Eddison STEPHEN, 24. Kensi TANGIS
Head Coach – Batram SURI (Vanuatu)

Hienghene Sport – 1. Rocky NYIKEINE,  4. Bruno HYANEM, 5. Jordan DINET, 6. Cedrick SANSOT,  10. Miguel KAYARA, 11. Bertrand KAI, 12. Amy Antoine ROINE,  13. Roy KAYARA, 14. Gianny KAYARA, 17. Rayan OUE, 19. Joseph ATHALE, 2o. Georgy BAMY, 22. Jean Luc DECOIRE, 23. Nelson KAI,  25. Georges WAKANUMUNE, 27.  Emile BEARUNE, 30. Yvanoe BAMY, 31. Jacques NYIKEINE
Head Coach – Felix TAGAWA (New Caledonia)

Eastern Suburbs AFC vs Hekari United
Sunday 16 February
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, KO: 15:00

Click on link for the live stream:

Match Officials
Referee: Veer SINGH (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Bernard MUTUKERA (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Andriu NAISIROKI (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Timothy NIU (SOL)

Eastern Suburbs AFC – 1. Danyon DRAKE, 3. Tyler LISSETTE, 4. Kelvin KALUA, 5. Alec SOLOMONS,  6. Adam THOMAS,  7. Michael BUILT,  8. Adam THURSTON, 9. Martin BUENO, 10. Reid DRAKE,  12. Kingsley SINCLAIR, 14. Leon VAN DEN HOVEN,  15. Stafford DOWLING, 16. Christian GRAY, 18. Matthew PALMER, 20. Jake MECHELL, 21. Ryan VERNEY, 23. Campbell STRONG,  25. Mackenzie WAITE,  27. Jade MESIAS
Head Coach – Tony READINGS (England)

Hekari United – 2. Daniel JOE,  3. Otto KUSUNAN, 4. Erick JOE,  6. Junior DAVID, 7. Langarap SAMOL,  8. Michael FOSTER,  9. Ati KEPO, 10. Kolu KEPO,  11. Vinicius REIS KRYZOZUN, 12. David MUTA, 13. Vito LALOATA, 15. Wilson GIASUAU, 16. Nathan JAMES,  19. Koriak UPAIGA, 20, Ishmael POLE,  21. Patrick AISA,  24. Vanya MALAGIAN,  30. Dave TOMARE,
Head Coach – Jerry ALLEN (Solomon Islands)

To view the results, match schedule and latest news for the OFC Champions League 2020: Click Here