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Chairman’s arrival boosts spirits

Kapi Natto’s wife and team manageress Vonnie had led the side in his absence but club captain Andrew Lepani noted that the players were happy to see their chairman for the first time in a couple of weeks.

“It’s always a great sight to see ‘Chief’ amongst the boys and we now feel our family is complete ahead of the match with Al Wahda,” he said.

Lepani, together with head coach Tommy Mana, had earlier fronted the international media at a joint press conference with their rivals at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.

“It’s a new experience for us to have this much attention but we are happy to share our story with the world. It is obvious that not much is known about Papua New Guinea itself and football in the Pacific Islands, so we feel privileged to be able to address the international media and promote ourselves and our region.”

Hekari have found themselves in the classic underdog position with many neutral fans hoping the unknown team from Oceania can cause a major upset on Wednesday evening (local time).

And those neutral fans will be joined in the 42,000 capacity stadium by a small group of supporters from Papua New Guinea, the first of whom arrived with Kapi Natto late on Monday night.

On the training pitch, the side completed two full training sessions, with Mana saying he was pleased with where his charges had got to by days’ end.

The squad had another morning training hit out on Tuesday before the official training session at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium that evening.

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