THE PAPUA New Guinea Under-17 men’s soccer team arrived back home last Friday, after being knocked out in the semi-final stage of the Oceania Football Confederation U17 championships in Papeete, Tahiti.
PNG performed beyond expectations during the tournament and pushed New Zealand, with the scores locked at 1-1 heading into injury-time in the second-half. Unfortunately, PNG conceded a goal in the third minute of injury-time, ending their hopes.
PNGFA senior vice-president John Wesley Gonjuan was present at Jacksons International Airport to welcome the team back.
He commended the team on their effort, telling them that they had made the country proud.
“You are all young players and you have played well for PNG, you should be proud of yourself and hold your heads up high and keep improving,” Gonjuan said.
“Even through the final result was not in our favour, I don’t want any of you to have any regrets. This tournament was a stepping stone for all of us,” Gonjuan said.
Gonjuan said football clubs in New Zealand have shown interest in four of our players and talks are underway with those clubs.
The rest of the players will be the core of the Besta PNG United Football Club for the National Soccer League 2017 season which is set to kick off in April.
PNG U17 coach Harrison Kamake praised the next generation of PNG footballing talent as they showed great determination progressing to the later stages of the championships.
“The friendlies that we played in New Zealand before the U17 OFC Championships helped the boys prepare mentally, allowing them to go into the championships with the right approach,” Kamake said.
“It shows that the Pacific Island countries can compete with New Zealand,” he said.