Weeks of uncertainty, delays in team registration and frustration from fans and players, all put to rest, as the National Soccer League officially announced the start of the 2019/2020 competition to begin on Saturday the 14th of December.
President of the PNG Football Association, John Kapi Natto, who initiated talks over a decade ago to have a semi-professional league in the country, was ecstatic when making the official announcement.
He say’s the Association as well as the NSL board were excited in the prospect of kick starting the competition.
“When I first came into office in 2018/2019, PNGFA endorsed a conference league and that conference league was supposed to be played in the four regions of the country, the highlands the northern, the southern and the new guinea islands, we tried that format under PNGFA and the national league to take that format out, it went very well, but there’s some bit of issues surrounding the format, PNGFA executives have now shelved that format , the conference league, we have now gone ahead to bring back the old format, now we will call it the premier league or premier division.”
In the 2018/19 season, PNGFA had initially embarked on an ambitious two-tier format that pitted regional winners and runners-up against each other that, now scrapped, to encompass a single 10-team league, played across four venues in Papua New Guinea.
Defending Champions Lae City, FC Morobe Wawen’s, Tusbab Stallions from Madang, 10-time winners Hekari, PRK Gulf Komara, Star Mountains FC, FC Bougainville and Vitias United round out the Port Moresby-based sides.
FC Kutubu makes the sole team from the Highlands region, and who are to be based and hosting matches in, Goroka.
No team from the New Guinea Islands region has been registered this season.
PNGFA General Secretary Dimirit Mileng, added that draws would be available shortly.
“Our confirmed venues are the PFS (PNG Football Stadium) here in Port Moresby, Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium (Lae), the National Sport Institute (Goroka) and Laiwaden in Madang”
Mileng also saying that with the OFC Champions League slated for early 2020, will also disrupt the NSL season, with the participation of both Lae City and Hekari United in the Oceania region’s top club competition.
“..Just to give our two clubs an opportunity to leave and come back early”
Mileng announcing that PNGFA will be hosting a set of group matches with Hekari and three other Oceania clubs taking part, with Lae City travelling abroad.
“That is starting in February, on the 15th, we will be releasing information on that shortly doing the groundwork on getting our teams together”
An additional positive announcement the reintroduction of a women’s competition that will commence in the second round of the men’s competition, with Lae and Port Moresby as the competition venues.
Major sponsor Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited, have tightened control measures on the management of the NSL Board, ensuring strict management over its operating, compliance and governance protocols.
“They’ve identified some of the gaps, some of the areas that we need to improve on, so the months have gone by, maybe 3 – 4 months the management of KPHL has been working with us, working with our management of the NSL and PNGFA” said Kapi Natto
He says KPHL would like to see the competition growing, with footballs influence being global and would continue to show that support to the game.
This was also acknowledged by NSL Board Chairman Benny Popoitai.
“Basically it’s to do with the whole financial management system from decision making down to cash management”.
Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited remains the competitions premier sponsor continuing until the 2021/2022 season.
By Jeremy Mogi, EMTV News, Port Moresby