Four years ago Yvonne Gabong carried the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup trophy onto the field at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby ahead of the final between Korea DPR and France.
Proudly adorned in traditional Manus attire, Papua New Guinea couldn’t have asked for a better representative or role model for the nation’s, or the region’s, young footballers.
That moment should have marked the beginning of a new era of women’s football in Papua New Guinea, it’s fruit of its legacy should be ripening but the opportunities it promised, were left undelivered.
However, the class of 2016 and numerous girls from across the country are finally about to get their opportunity to shine as the Papua New Guinea Women’s Soccer League launches in Port Moresby and Lae this weekend.
Among the players ready and waiting to make the return to competitive football on home soil, is none other than the former U-20 women’s captain, Gabong.
Now 24 years old, Gabong will lead newly-formed club FC Genesis when they take on Port Moresby City Academy at PNG Football Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a great honour to be part of this club and to be trusted with the captaincy for the upcoming season. As female athlete I think it’s great to have a semi-professional league dedicated to women’s players to showcase our talent, and I’d like to thank PNGFA for ensuring the season is going ahead despite the difficulties of 2020,” Gabong said.
“I am excited to be playing and look forward to the challenge of playing against the best female players in the country.”
Gabong is not the only experienced player Genesis will be relying on to boost their ranks this season.
Fellow U-20 World Cup players goalkeeper Lavinia Hola, midfielder Ramona Padio and defender Margret Joseph are joined by experienced senior international Aida Gerote and 2019 Pacific Games gold medalist Rayleen Bauelua.
They’re also being led by experienced coach Percy Mataio who knows he’s fortunate to have a good foundation of experience to blend with some of the talented young players ready to make their competitive debuts.
But remains realistic about what can be achieved in their debut season.
“I know we have the talent to do very well this season and I know the team is focused on achieving our objectives,” he said.
“But we also recognise there are 13 other teams that want to do the same so we need to make sure we are prepared and consistent with our performances.
“Overall, I want the players to express themselves on the field and use this opportunity to develop their skills and grow in confidence.”
Ensconced in the club ethos is a desire to be more than just a means for the players to get out on the field.
Club executive, Grace Yohang-Mataio said Genesis is aims to create an opportunity for players to excel on and off the field.
“At FC Genesis we believe sport is one of the most powerful platforms to promote gender equality,” she said.
“We’re very excited to provide these young, female Papua New Guineans with an opportunity to grow and develop their talents through participation in the WNSL.”