||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2014)|
|Full name||Nathaniel Lepani|
|Date of birth||20 January 1982|
|Place of birth||Papua New Guinea|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|1991–1994||Overijse Voetbal Club|
|2001–2002||Cosmos Port Moresby|
|2005||Brisbane City FC||(1)|
|2006||Taringa Rovers FC|
|2009–2011||Eastern Stars FC||14||(6)|
|2011–2012||Gigira Laitepo Morobe||19||(4)|
|2013||Edge Hill United||4||(4)|
|2001||Papua New Guinea U-20||4||(2)|
|2004–||Papua New Guinea||12||(9)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Nathaniel Lepani (born 20 January 1982) is a footballer from Papua New Guinea. Lepani plays as a forward for Australian side Edge Hill United at club level; he has represented Papua New Guinea national football team at international level on 12 occasions. Lepani has also played for Menlo Oaks in the US as well as several other clubs in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Born in Papua New Guinea in January 1982, Lepani moved to Hawaii as a young child, due to his father being posted there for work. Nathaniel moved to Belgium with his family in 1991 and began his football development by playing with Flanders club Overijse's U–12 and U–14 sides. He returned to Papua New Guinea in 1994, and later said "I was fortunate enough to have lived in and experienced several cultures and countries growing up, due to my Dad's work commitments", adding that his stay in Belgium "helped to cement my footballing upbringing".
Lepani began his career in 2000–01 with Cosmos Port Moresby, a team based in the capital of his home country. In May 2001 he went on trial with Italian outfit Brescia Calcio, training with the club's primavera youth squad. He lasted for the maximum trial period of a month, and was one of two Papua New Guineans to be selected for trial (the other being Alex Davani) but neither player was awarded a permanent contract. In 2002 the midfielder moved to the United States of America to study at Menlo College in California, playing for the college's team the Menlo Oaks at the same time. He wore the no.7 shirt for the team. Lepani scored a penalty in an 11–0 win over Bethany College in October 2002.
In 2005, Lepani joined Brisbane Premier League outfit Brisbane City FC. He played for the club's first–team and reserve side during his only season at Spencer Park, scoring one goal. The following year the midfielder joined Taringa Rovers of the same division, again shuttling between reserve and first–team outings.
Further work and university commitments stalled Lepani's club career until the 2007–08 season, when he joined Ku-ring-gai district side Lindfield FC. Lepani was finally able to resume a regular career at club level after returning to Papua New Guinea in 2009. He signed for mid-table top-flight club Eastern Stars FC.
Eastern Stars finished fifth in the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League in 2009–10. Lepani played more of a role in 2010–11, scoring a late penalty against PRK Hekari United on 20 November 2010 in a 3–1 defeat. Eastern Stars finished as league runners-up that season, but this didn't stop Lepani leaving the club to join Gigira Laitepo Morobe in the same league.
Lepani made his debut for Gigira Laitepo on the opening day of the 2011–12 season, in a 3–0 loss to PRK Hekari United in November 2011. He scored a penalty in a 3–2 defeat to NBS Tukoko University on 26 November 2011. The midfielder scored a free kick in a 3–1 win over Bulolo United on 4 February 2012. He left Gigira Laitepo at the end of the season.
After a spell without a club, Lepani joined up with Cairns outfit Edge Hill United in May 2013, having returned to Australia. He made his debut for the club on 2 June 2013, scoring a hat-trick in a 5–0 win over Innisfail United. On 16 June, the midfielder played in Edge Hill's 6–1 loss to Stratford Dolpins; Lepani was substituted after his team had the first of two players sent-off.
Nathaniel played for Papua New Guinea U-20 in the 2001 OFC U-20 Championship held in the Cook Islands and New Caledonia. He scored twice for the side, in the 4–0 win over Cook Islands on 17 February 2004. However, despite this win, Papua New Guinea finished bottom of their group and failed to make it to the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship.
Lepani made his senior debut for Papua New Guinea on 14 January 2004 against the Solomon Islands in a 4–2 loss. He went on to make eight appearances that year, scoring against Fiji in a 2004 Summer Olympics qualifier on 18 January 2004, and also netting against Samoa three times over two games.
These eight caps remained Lepani's only appearances for the national team until he was called up for the men's football tournament at the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia. He justified his inclusion in the squad by scoring Papua New Guinea's fourth goal in their 4–0 win over the Cook Islands on 27 August 2011, after coming off the bench. Nathaniel was again a used substitute in the 1–1 draw with Tahiti on 1 September 2011, coming on just eleven minutes into the game after an injury to Reg Davani. He was later substituted off the pitch after Cyril Muta's red card. Lepani scored four times in the 17–1 demolition of Kiribati on 3 September 2011, including two goals in the space of a minute. He then played in Papua New Guinea's final group match, the 2–0 loss to Fiji on 5 September 2011 that meant Papua New Guinea were sent home.
Despite his goals in the Pacific Games, Lepani was not included in Papua New Guinea's final squad for the 2012 OFC Nations Cup. Lepani later admitted he was "extremely" disappointed not to have made the squad, and revealed that a gash to his knee, which required "7 stitches and one week out from training camp" contributed to his exclusion.
International appearances and goals
A versatile player, Lepani is able to play in centre midfield, on the wing, or as a striker. The player has cited his "agility, balance, speed and ability to read the game" as his key strengths and a major reason for his success as a footballer. Lepani has also admitted that he has "always [been] on the 'slight' side in terms of body build" and the physicality of club football in both Australia and America means that "I have always had to ensure I made my mark on the game through other ways". Nathaniel has compared his style of play to that of FC Barcelona forward Pedro.
Lepani attended Port Moresby International School and St Peter's College in Papua New Guinea and Menlo College, California in the United States. He then graduated from the Queensland University of Technology in 2006, after studying business. His mother is from the United States and his father is Papua New Guinean. Nathaniel's brother, Andrew Lepani, is also a footballer and has played for Papua New Guinea, Cosmos Port Moresby and PRK Hekari United. His grandmother is from the Trobriand Islands and still lives there. In November 2006, Nathaniel met World Cup winner Christian Karembeu at the launch of the Oceania Football Confederation's OFC Champions League 2007.
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- National Football Teams: Player – Nathaniel Lepani Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- 2002 Men's Soccer Roster: Nathaniel Lepani Menlo College. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Menlo News: Vazquez Nets 4 Goals Menlo College. 21 October 2002. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Nathaniel Lepani WorldFootball.Net. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Menlo College – 2002 Men's Soccer Roster Menlo College. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
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- Gigira makes a comeback Papua New Guinea Football Association. 5 February 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Match result: Edge Hill 5–0 Innisfail United SportingPulse.com. 2 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- Match result: Stratford Dolphins 6–1 Edge Hill SportingPulse.com. 16 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
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- Port Moresby Board: Any Ex SPLC people out there? Network54.com. 17 April 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Nathaniel Lepani Freett.com. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Papua New Guinea Coach Farina Goes For Family Connection BoxscoreNews.com. 8 August 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Andrew Lepani: Internationals WorldFootball.Net. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Sanatoi Wedding in Port Moresby 17 January 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- "Papua New Guinean footballer in awe at superstar Christian Karembeu". Radio New Zealand International. 29 November 2006. Retrieved 27 October 2011.