Sport: Pacific clubs say they can still contend for O-League football title

12:32 pm on 29 October 2015

The Papua New Guinea Football Association believes Pacific Island clubs are still capable of challenging for the Oceania Champions League title.

New Zealand domestic champions Auckland City FC have won the past five Oceania club championships, while domestic rivals Team Wellington finished runners-up in Fiji this year at their first attempt.

Auckland City celebrate winning the 2015 Oceania Champions League title.

Auckland City celebrate winning the 2015 Oceania Champions League title. Photo: SUPPLED

Both of those clubs will have the added advantage of hosting the 2016 O-League competition, with one pool in Wellington and two pool plus the finals to be held in Auckland.

Papua New Guinea will have two participants for the first time - 2010 Oceania champions Hekari United and newcomers Lae City Dwellers.

Hekari United players celebrate scoring a goal against Tafea FC.

Hekari United will be one of two Papua New Guinea clubs in the 2016 Oceania Champions League. Photo: Oceania Football

The General Secretary of the PNGFA, Dimrit Mileng, believes they, and other Pacific-based-teams, can still compete with the best of New Zealand.

"We can't say we cannot compete against the best. We just need to make sure that we get our formulas right, to put it that way. At home we need to make sure that our competition is tough enough for the players to play at the higher competition. That will allow us to get to play New Zealand because New Zealand have enough resources to get the players to play at the higher competition, even with invitational matches. For the Pacific nations and PNG in particular we'd like to make our local competition more competitive, in order to compete with those outside."

New Caledonia will also have two clubs in the O-League for the first time next year.

The remaining slots are made up of two teams from Fiji and one each from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tahiti.

The 12th and final berth will be determined when the club champions from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga contest the Champions League Preliminary in January.