11 Mar 2017

Sport:Expanded OFC Champions League a boost for Melanesia

12:12 pm on 11 March 2017

The strongest ever line-up of Melanesian football clubs will be on display when the OFC Champions League resumes this weekend.

Madang are making their OFC Champions League debut in 2017.

Madang are making their OFC Champions League debut in 2017. Photo: OFC / Alain Vartane

The expanded 16-team competition includes two clubs from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands for the first time, as well as an extra side from Tahiti.

Solomon Islands runners-up Western United lost all three pool matches in their previous Oceania appearance two years ago and face a difficult start in Group C against hosts and six-time defending champions Auckland City.

Italian goalkeeper Fabrizio Prattico is their only foreign players and captain Henry Fa'arodo said they have prepared well after arriving in New Zealand more than a week ago.

"The management, the coaches probably believed in the local talents that we have, so they haven't really think about going out and recruit players from outside," Fa'arodo said.

"I think the only big recruitment will be Nelson Sale from Amicale FC to us but it's good as well, we have a lot in common as well and stuff. He just blended in really quickly as well, so that's a bonus for us."

Fa'arodo said having two teams from the Solomon Islands was a big boost for their local game.

"Especially now with Marist being the champions and Western United being runner-up. I think for football-wise I think it's good - you have a lot more players

coming out and getting exposed in international football and stuff," Fa'arodo said.

"And for us as well it's a challenge as well to see where we're at, in regards to the football standards compared to the Solomons."

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx said Western United are more than capable of causing them problems.

[Benjamin] Totori there, [Henry] Fa'arodo, they've got four to five players from the national team: Joses Nawo in there, [Anthony] Talo the goalkeeper, very good, good feet so it's a very good team on the ball."

"It's going to put us under pressure for sure so we have to make sure that we understand structurally, positionally with things we have to be aware of for the way they play," Tribulietx said.

Malampa Revivors make their OFC Champions League debut this afternoon against Lae City Dwellers from Papua New Guinea.

They are one of two newcomers from Vanuatu, with the National Super League runners-up joining Port Vila champions Erakor Golden Star.

It's the first time in seven years Amicale FC have failed to qualify for Oceania competition and Malampa team manager Johnseth Malkusum said the local competition was getting stronger.

"More new teams are coming up now and football is growing everywhere like in Port Vila, that's where the competition it's coming up and the new teams are coming up."

"As a result Erakor won the Port Vila League and Malampa won the Super League."

Meanwhile Group D kicks off in Tahiti tomorrow, with Solomon Islands champions Marist FC up against Rewa from Fiji and hosts AS Tefana taking on Erakor.