Revamped Oceania Champions League kicks off in Fiji
The revamped Oceania Champions League football tournament kicked off in Fiji this week with more teams, more pressure, and less rest.
The revamped Oceania Champions League football tournament kicked off in Fiji this week with more teams, more pressure and less rest.
The competition format has been squeezed into just two months, with all 12 teams playing the entire pool stage in just eight days.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
A second club side from Vanuatu, Fiji and Tahiti have joined the group stages, along with Samoa's Kiwi FC, who won a qualifying tournament in October. Kiwi are making their first appearance in the O-League since 1999 and have been busy competing in the Samoa domestic league. Head coach Martin Tamasese says that will allow them to hit the ground running.
MARTIN TAMASESE: And our overseas players that are based overseas they are still playing for their clubs. We didn't have the time to train together but three days we will be in Fiji so we will put together our team there and It's really easy for our overseas players to adapt and also our locals to adapt with the way that our overseas players are playing so to me as a coach I'm confident with our preparation.
An injection of youth is behind Tafea FC's return to the O-League for the first time in four years. The National Super League champions dominated domestic football in Vanuatu for close to two decades, winning 16 titles, before rivals Amicale FC won three straight. Head coach Moise Poida says that forced Tafea to go back to basics.
MOISE POIDA: We come up to win again because when we started to lose a game then we started to work with the young players - then after three years we get the result to come back as the Vanuatu champions. All of my team members they have all gone through the academy programme since 2009 and after, when they left the academy, I bring them back to put them in the Tafea programme so I could coach them or continue to work with them.
The Solomon Warriors were the final team to confirm their place in Fiji after retaining their national title last month. Team manager Dr Kenton Sade says they learnt a lot from their debut effort last season.
KENTON SADE: OFC Champions League is a different level of football. The level of football in Solomon Islands I think given a few more years in the National Soccer League scene and if we can improve on the local club structures I think then we could get to a level where we could safely say that we could compete very strongly in the Champions League but what we have so far, in this current season, is we need a lot of work on some of the areas but in terms of technical skills wise we can match anyone but in terms of size we need a lot of work on that and a lot of strength as well.
A minute's silence will be observed for those affected by the Solomon Islands flood at all matches. The winner of three pools plus one other team will advance to home and away semi finals at the end of the month, with the O-League champion, to be crowned in May. The winner will also represent Oceania at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December.
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