It has been a long time coming, but Papua New Guinea will finally see its National Women’s Soccer League get underway at the end of the month with matches in Lae and Port Moresby.
The Papua New Guinea Football Association have been working hard behind the scenes to prepare for the much anticipated competition, with 13 teams set to battle it out for the silverware.
Recently appointed PNGFA Competition Director Paul Isorua has confirmed the competing teams will be split into two conferences, Northern and Southern.
“So far preparation has been going well and we are excited to see the revival of the women’s league,” he said.
“We are starting off with the launch on November 25 with a big bang, which will include the unveiling of the draw, followed by the kick-off on November 28. The competition starts at the end of this month and runs through to April next year.”
Isorua said the Conference competition stage will be a league format with two rounds, before the top two teams from the respective conferences proceed to the finals.
Puis Letenge, who took up the role of Papua New Guinea Football Association General Secretary in September, believes the revamping of the women’s league is an interesting and exciting prospect, especially with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 on the horizon.
“There is a huge interest in women’s football and it has grown massively over the years. We have seen young women and girls coming out from different settlements, communities, tribes, clans and provinces in Papua New Guinea and excelling in the sport,” Letenge said.
“We are also seeing mothers who regularly attend trainings and who bring their children to games. it’s truly amazing to see young women and girls who are focused to grow to become better, not only in football, but also in life.
“Our women’s national team is the only team in the country which has won five consecutive gold medals in the Pacific Games. We are currently ranked 48 in the world and second in Oceania behind New Zealand which is something very good..
“Our aim now for 2020 is to identify talented women and girls in football for development.”
Letenge said PNGFA will be going into overdrive in its bid to ensure players are well prepared over the next two years with the goal of qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Although Papua New Guinea hosted the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2016, competing with pride and honour on the global stage, women’s football development in the country has suffered immensely from the political maelstrom which has blighted the association over the past five years.
The promises that tournament offered have unfortunately not been delivered on, with many young players lost in the wilderness without regular matches, training, or any organised football activities to aid their development.
However, football still seems to have ingrained itself in the blood of many as Papua New Guinea won their fifth Pacific Games gold medal in 2019, less than a year after disappointingly missing out on the final of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup following a semi-final loss to rising women’s football nation Fiji.
With stability returning to PNGFA, a new president in John Kapi Natto joined by the newly appointed Letenge, things are certainly looking up for women’s football in the region’s most populous nation.
“These are hugely exciting times for women’s football and as the country’s flagship women’s competition, the revamped Women’s League will have a key role to play in furthering this growth,” Letenge said.
Additional reporting: Leo Jakanduo