The 2017/18 Telekom S-League gets underway today with two tasty encounters to open what will be a thrilling season off football.
The opener at Lawson Tama Stadium sees defending champions Marist FC take on league debutants Henderson Eels in what is expected to be a tough match for both parties.
While Marist has the experience, the Eels are the only S-League side to have beaten Marist during the pre-season.
Marist’s Brazilian coach Juliano Schmeling has assembled a who’s-who of Solomon Islands football this season, with the addition of three compatriots bolstering the squad.
The Brazilian trio of Diego Maximo, Marcelo Olivera and Guilherme Guedes are expected to inject a little flair into their side’s title challenge, with Guedes the team’s top scorer during the 2017 OFC Champions League with five goals.
The towering striker scored five in pre-season and Schmeling hopes that scoring streak will continue into the season.
“I think the first game is always hard, it doesn’t matter which team you’re playing it will be an extremely intense in the opener,” Schmeling said.
“On top of that, we’re playing against a potential title contender but the only thing is we need to be ready.
“Because if we want to retain the title, we need to be ready for all our opponents.”
Schmeling has been putting his side through their paces in the build-up to the league kicking-off and said they’re now raring to get underway, and an opening win would set them up well.
As well as the Brazilian trio, Schmeling has secured the services of Bonito’s captain Henry Fa’arodo who joins fellow internationals Atkin Kaua, Timothy Bakale, Robert Laua, Jeffry Blue, Zantas Kabini and Michael Boss.
Meanwhile Henderson Eels are looking forward to making their debut in the S-League against the defending champions.
Coach Chris Aspira said he expects it to be a baptism of fire.
“It will be a good game against Marist in the opening match of the season,” he said.
“We respect Marist because they are the champions and defending champions of the TSL. We are sort of an underdog but we will give them a good game.
“And as in any game of football, the winner will be determined at the final whistle.”
While Henderson Eels are new to the S-League, Aspira has assembled quite a line-up.
Veterans include Alick Maemae, Dennis Ifunaoa, Tutizama Tanito, Fred Kini and Joses Nawa, as well as recent national team inclusions and Solomon Cup stars Clement Baegeni, Clifton Aumae and Andrew Rarangia.
The opening match of the season kicks off Saturday 19 August at 2pm followed by Solomon Warriors vs. Real Kakamora at 4pm, both matches will be played at Lawson Tama Stadium.
Additional reporting: Simon Abana/Solomon Star