7 Oct 2014

Sport: Race for final O-League berth underway

11:52 am on 7 October 2014

The race for the final berth in next year's Oceania Champions League football competition kicks off in Apia on Tuesday, with three newcomers and one old head.

Cook Islands champions Puaikura FC open up proceedings against Samoan Korean Baptist Church FC from American Samoa.

Both have never previously made it this far in regional competition, with Puaikura hoping to emulate the success of local rivals Tupapa Maraerenga, who are a previous winner of the Preliminary event.

SKBC won the domestic title in their first season following promotion to the top league and have recruited a number of players from local rivals Pago Youth, to bolster their O-League bid.

Korean striker Gun Kang is one of those and is hoping to maintain his form in front of goal.

"Last year I had two goals - that was the only two goals that we had for American Samoa. If we do our best we hope to go to [the] O-League. I think it's difficult but we have to try our best and give it a shot".

In the later game, Lupe Ole Soaga will have home-town support in Apia as they bid to match the success of fellow Samoan club Kiwi FC last year.

Their opponents, Lotoha'apai United, are hoping experience will finally pay off.

The Tongan football champions first competed at this stage way back in 1999 and this will be their third consecutive year bidding for a spot in the O-League main draw.

With all three of their opponents newcomers to this level, Lotoha'apai team Manager Fetu Vea is hopeful a bit of rejuvenation will inspire the veterans to success.

"Looking at [the] experiences of the seones arriving, this year we are bringing in new kids for the block, for the development of our club, because we are looking for the future too. We can't rely on old guys every time. Time goes [and] we need to bring in some new guys".

The four teams will play each other once with the highest-placed team after three round-robin matches advancing to the O-League main draw in Fiji in April.