Hekari United FC have enjoyed a meteoric rise from amateur football to continental champions in the space of just seven years since their foundation in 2003. Originally known as PRK Souths United FC, the team from the capital Port Moresby enjoyed instant success, moving into the top flight within two years. The club immediately became a dominant force, and have won all four editions of the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League since the current format of the national league was introduced in 2006.
Under coach Tommy Mana, Hekari were competitive in their maiden tilt at the OFC O-League in 2009, finishing fourth. The following year, the club continued its policy of acquiring some of the Pacific’s best players from the likes of Fiji and the Solomons and, along with some of PNG’s finest talent, it proved a highly successful formula. The result was that Hekari overturned the form book and created history in May by becoming the first team to break the stranglehold held on the continental competition by Australian and New Zealand clubs. The aggregate win over Kiwis Waitakere United was set up by a first-leg win at home in front of 15,000 fans, believed to be a national record attendance.
With the domestic competition taking a lengthy break prior to its re-start in October, Hekari continued their build-up for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 with a tour of northern Australia in July. They also have three matches of the new league O-League season scheduled prior to their arrival in Abu Dhabi.
Since the O-League triumph in Auckland, Fiji’s Alvin Singh and local player Tau Winnie have joined the four-time national champions. Solomon Islands duo Henry Fa'arodo and Aleck Maemae will provide the experience needed in Abu Dhabi, with the former having played in the Australian A-League with Perth Glory.
Stanley Waita, Aleck Maemae (both Solomon Islands), Veresa Toma (Fiji)
David Muta, Kema Jack (both Papua New Guinea), Henry Fa'arodo, Gideon Omokirio (both Solomon Islands), Pita Bolatoga, Tuimasi Manuca (both Fiji)
Hekari topped their four-team group, one point ahead of formidable Fijian outfit Lautoka, with perennial Vanuatuan champions Tafea a further four points adrift. Despite the closeness of the group, the Papua New Guinea side lost just one of their group encounters before astonishing two-time Oceania champions Waitakere in the first leg of the final with a typically exuberant attacking display to record a 3-0 home win. The New Zealanders could only win the return 2-1 in Auckland, leaving the PNG side to celebrate a 4-2 aggregate success.
The numbers game
19 – Hekari hit the back of the net 19 times in their eight O-League matches, with local hero Kema Jack the league’s joint-top scorer with seven goals.