The long-awaited Papua New Guinea Women’s National Soccer League will get underway this weekend after launching to great fanfare last week, as the nation gets behind the bid to see the “Queens of the Pacific” elevated to the global stage.
Fourteen teams, all represented at the launch by their captains, will compete across the Northern and Southern Conferences of a league which the custodians of football in the country are calling the first step on the “road to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup”.
What remains astounding about the long-awaited competition, is the achievements Papua New Guinea women’s footballers have made in the interim.
A factor Papua New Guinea Football Association President, John Kapi Natto, acknowledged during the launch at the Sir John Guise Indoor Complex in Port Moresby last Thursday evening.
“Our women have won five Pacific Games gold medals without any regular competition; can you believe that? Every four years they’ve gone to compete and they’ve won those gold medals consecutively. What these women have done is amazing,” Kapi Nato enthused.
“They’ve also been runners-up to New Zealand for quite a long time, without any regular competition. It’s a huge achievement for our women’s efforts abroad as they compete for supremacy in the Oceania region, and having the dream of one day going to the World Cup.
“I foresee a bright future for our women’s football as we begin the journey to the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“Why? Because they’re champions of the South Pacific, nothing can stop these women from reaching their dream.”
A huge amount of interest in the competition has seen a record number of clubs sign on, with the 14th team registering their participation just a few days out from the official launch.
In the Northern Conference, the participating teams are covering vast geographical distances to take part. One team travelled from Wewak to Madang by boat, covering approximately 250km, before journeying a further six hours by road to Lae, where they will be based for the six months of competition.
Interim chairperson of the National Women’s Soccer League Committee, Diane Peliokai, said the launch marked a proud moment for women’s football.
“2020 has been a difficult and challenging year, not just for soccer, but also our country,” she said.
“So, to end the year with the commencement of our women’s league, demonstrates our resilience, strength, passion and love for the beautiful game. This signifies change and growth for women’s football in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. What a way to start and to tell the Pacific, ‘PNG is back!’ We’ll have more than 350 women and girls playing in the 2020/21 season and that means more than 350 families and supporters will be cheering them on every game day,” Peliokai continued.
“My message to all young girls and women, the ball is at your feet Every one of us here and at home, are proud of you representing your club, your home, your village, your clan and your community, and one day we hope, your country.”
The draw was conducted during the launch, ranking the teams in each conference, with the official match calendar due to be released this week ahead of the official kick-off on December 5.