Ten years ago, one of the most important moments in oceanic football took place when Papua New Guinea was brought to the top of Oceania by Hekari United. The Port Moresby-based side became the first non-Australian or New Zealander side ever to win the OFC Champions League trophy. Led by Jerry Allen, the team counted on the likes of Henry Fa’arodo, David Muta and Koriak Upaiga on their way to the final.
Earlier in the month, on 2 May to be precise, Hekari United celebrated ten years of their greatest memory, when they lost 2-1 away from home to New Zealand champions Waitakere United, a result that benefited the Papua New Guinea side who had won the first leg in Port Moresby 3-0. Star striker Kema Jack was crucial for Hekari United in both of these matches – Jack scored three of Hekari’s four goals in the finals.
While Group A of the 2009/10 OFC Champions League featured two New Zealand representatives – Auckland City and Waitakere United – plus Tahiti’s Manu-Ura and New Caledonia’s AS Magenta, Hekari did not have to play against a New Zealand side to qualify for the finals. The Port Moresby-side had Lautoka’s Fijian side, Ni-Vanuatu champions Tafea and Solomon Islands’ Marist FC in their group. The groups were played in a round robin system with home and away matches – a total of six matches for each team were played to determine the champions of each group.
Both finalists had to fight hard to qualify for the final: Waitakere United had the same number of points of Auckland City int standings, but the red-and-white team came out on top in the goal difference – +9 against +8 from Auckland City. Hekari led the group by just one point over Lautoka, the Papua New Guineans had won four games, drawn once and lost only one – the Fijians were the only team to beat Hekari in the group stage.
After securing a historic title, Hekari travelled to the United Arab Emirates to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup. Although they lost in the play-off match against local champions Al-Wahda, Hekari made Papua New Guinea and Oceania proud of their efforts to represent their region in the world stage tournament.
The current year 2020 also marks the return of Hekari United after a four-year break in the OFC Champions League. The club finished as runners-up in the PNG National Soccer League in 2019 and earned a place in the regional tournament. Unfortunately, Hekari United were unable to advance to the knockout rounds even at home in the year that marks the tenth anniversary of the club’s most important title. The team, which was grouped with Eastern Suburbs of New Zealand, Hienghène Sport of New Caledonia and ABM Galaxy of Vanuatu, finished third in the group to complete their return to the competition.
Hekari United remained the only team from neither Australia nor New Zealand to win the competition until Hienghène Sport, one of Hekari’s opponents in the 2020 OFC Champions League, won the 2019 edition of the regional competition.
Story & Pics courtesy of Oceania Football Center