Papua New Guinea National Soccer League

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National Soccer League
National Soccer League.png
Founded 2006
Country Papua New Guinea
Confederation OFC
Divisions 1
Level on pyramid 1
League cup(s) Championship Series
International cup(s) OFC Champions League
Current champions Lae City Dwellers FC
(2018)
Most championships Hekari United FC (8 titles)
2018 PNG National Soccer League

The National Soccer League[1] is the top division of the football in Papua New Guinea. It is a nationwide semi-professional league and was formed in 2006.

It replaced the Papua New Guinea Overall Championship (PNGOC) as the country's major soccer competition.

History[edit]

Foundation[edit]

The National Soccer League was started by the David Chung, President of the Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA), in 2006. It was the first nationwide semi-professional football league, and a step up from the amateur Papua New Guinea National Club Championship, which had been in existence since 1976.[2]

In the first season, which took place in late 2006, the league took place alongside the amateur league, with the winners of each league (i.e. the semi-professional and amateur champions) playing each other in a two-legged playoff to decide that year's qualifier for the OFC Champions League.[2] Since then, the winner (and more recently, the runner-up) of the National Soccer League has earned qualification each year for the OFC Champions League.

Since its inception, with the exception of the 2015–16 season, the league has consisted of an initial league phase, with each team playing each other twice, before the top four teams enter a knockout Championship Playoff, with the eventual league champion decided in a one-legged Grand Final.

2006–2012: Early years[edit]

The first eight editions of the competition were won by Hekari United, under various different names.[3]

In 2006, five teams entered the competition from five different provinces: Port Moresby (PRK Souths United, now Hekari United), Lae (TL Blue Kumuls), Central Province (Gelle Hills), Madang (Madang Flying Fox) and Mount Hagen (Welgris Momads).[4] A sixth side, to come from Lae, Kimbe or Bougainville, eventually did not enter.[2] PRK Souths United won, defeating Gelle Hills 2–0 in the Grand Final. However, they failed to qualify for the OFC Champions League after a 4–2 aggregate defeat to amateur side University Inter in the Overall Final.[2]

The 2007–08 season was played in late 2007 and early 2008, and became known as the Telikom NSL Cup, due to sponsorship reasons.[5] All five of the founding members of the league entered once again, albeit under various different names: TL Blue Kumuls became Morobe FC; Welgris Momads became Welgris Highlanders; PRK Souths United became Hekari United; and Madang Flying Fox became, simply, Madang Fox. Furthermore, two new teams entered: Rapatona FC and Besta Madang.[5] The top four teams in the regular season table qualified for the Championship Playoffs, with Hekari United finishing top of the regular season table and defeating Gelle Hills in the final again, 3–2.[5]

In the2008–09 season, the league was expanded to eight teams, albeit with three sides from the previous season not taking part. Madang Fox and Besta Madang withdrew, while Gelle Hills application was rejected in favour of new club Sepik FC.[6] Also joining the league were Eastern Stars, Nabasa United and University Inter, who had beaten Hekari United in the 2006 Overall Final. Hekari and Inter were first and second in the regular season table, but it was Hekari and Rapatona who were due to meet in the Grand Final; however, following two postponements on 21 March and 28 March, the PNGFA awarded the championship, and qualification to the OFC Champions League, to Hekari United, by virtue of their higher league position.[6]

The 2009–10 season saw the league expanded once again, to encapsulate nine teams. Sepik FC withdrew after failing to submit a letter of interest, while Welgris Highlanders missed the application deadline.[7] Nabasa United also withdrew, while Gelle Hills and Madang Fox were reinstated. There were new entries from Tukoko University FC and Besta United PNG, the latter of which acted as the national U-20 squad. Hekari United again finished top of the regular season table, and played Gigira Laitepo in the Grand Final, winning 5–0.[7][8]

For the first time since its inception, the number of teams decreased ahead of the 2010–11 season, with Gelle Hills, Rapatona FC and University Inter all withdrawing, while Petro Souths FC joined the league for the first time.[9][10][11] That left seven sides taking part, with Hekari finishing the season unbeaten and top of the league, defeating Eastern Stars 4–0 in the final.[9]

The 2011–12 season saw relative stability within the league, with only one side (Madang Fox) withdrawing, being replaced by another new side, Bulolo United.[12] Hekari United once again finished top of the regular season table, and played Eastern Stars in the Grand Final for the second consecutive season, winning 3–0.[13]

In July 2012, PNGFA President and league founder David Chung was named as a recipient of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.[14]

2013–2016: Difficulties and disillusionment[edit]

2013 saw a delay in the start date of the league due mainly to late registrations leading to a lack of sufficient number of teams for the competition. By late December 2012, only four teams had completed the registration process: current champions Hekari United, Besta United PNG, Welgris Highlanders, returning from a three-year absence, and newcomers West New Britain Tavur.[15] Another new franchise, FC Port Moresby, joined in early January.[16] At this stage, the NSL had decided to go ahead with the league with just six teams, the lowest since the inaugural season, but two sides, founding members Morobe FC and NC Civil Works Oro FC, submitted their registration documents on the same day, leaving the organisers with a dilemma.[17] This led to Hekari United's owner, John Kappi Natto, urging the NSL to re-adjust the league to cater for all seven teams.[18] It was only on 29 January that the teams were confirmed, over two months later than usual, with the addition of Eastern Stars creating an eight-team league for the season ahead.[19]

The NSL board took further criticism early in the season from new side WNB Tavur. The NSL contractually paid for the travel costs to and from away matches for the clubs in the league, but due to Tavur's location on the New Guinea islands, were unwilling to foot the full bill for the more expensive travel costs involved.[20] This led to Tavur playing three consecutive away matches, on 20, 23 and 28 February 2013, to avoid back and forth travel costs.[20][21] Eventually, however, the season concluded on 1 June, with Hekari United claiming their seventh consecutive title, winning 3–0 against FC Port Moresby in the Grand Final.[21]

The 2014 season initially had 12 interested clubs,[22] but by 21 October, only seven of them had completed the registration process in full, including new sides Admiralty FC and Lae FC. The previous season's finalists FC Port Moresby had not done so, and neither had last year's debutants WNB Tavur.[23] Both clubs ended up being excluded from the competition, with FC Port Moresby eventually lodging an appeal and submitting a case to the court.[24] This led to another season-start delay, with the start date being postponed three times[25] before eventually starting on 8 February, after FC Port Moresby withdrew their court case 'for the sake of the 2014 football season'.[26]

In April 2014, Morobe FC's owner Tuguyawini Libe Parindali accused the National Soccer League of being 'too expensive', claiming that there was 'no incentive' to keep competing in the division.[27] This was in response to the NSL's decision to stop subsidising airfares, accommodation, food and transport for away games, something they had done since the inception of the league in 2006.[27]

On the pitch, Hekari United were awarded their eighth consecutive league title on 24 May 2014, despite the Grand Final being abandoned after 70 minutes due to crowd violence.[28] With Hekari leading 3–0, several Lae FC fans outside the arena fence started throwing stones at the Hekari United players, with Hekari goalkeeper Godfrey Baniau being hit several times.[29] Some claimed that the referee was biased towards Hekari United, with the decision to send off Lae captain Kohu Liem causing the fan outrage, while others blamed the organisers, who failed to clear supporters who had not paid for the event away from the outside of the stadium.[29][30][31][32]

Ahead of the 2015 season, Gigira Laitepo, who had sponsored Morobe FC for the entirety of their eight-year league history, withdrew their sponsorship, throwing the franchise into disarray.[33] The club ended up withdrawing from the league, as did Eastern Stars. Lae FC, as Lae City Dwellers FC, retained their place in the league after paying a fine for 'bringing the game into disrepute' in the previous year's Grand Final, while FC Port Moresby returned after their long court saga the previous year, as did Madang FC after a three-year absence.[34][35]

The season became the first in history that Hekari United didn't win the title: the eight-time champions were beaten by Madang FC in the semi-finals of the playoffs, despite finishing the regular season top of the table. Madang went on to lose 5–1 to Lae City Dwellers in the final, with the Lae club winning the title after just two years of existence.[35]

The 2015-16 season saw unprecedented interest, with 12 clubs successfully signing up, and the organisers taking a decision to split the division into two zones, Northern and Southern. New clubs included PS Huawei, Erema FC, Goroka Gosiha and Rapatona FC, the latter of whom was returning to the competition after a five-year absence under new sponsorship for the 2015-16 season.[36] Morobe FC, now under the sponsorship of Welgris, also returned, while a new club, Gigira Laitepo United, were formed under new sponsorship from the Gigira Laitepo company. The league ran smoothly, with the top two teams from each zone entering a second group stage, and the top two teams facing off once again in the final. For the second season in a row, Lae City Dwellers won the title, ahead of Hekari United, winning 2–0.[37]

2017: League split[edit]

Towards the end of 2016, several cumulative events triggered many clubs across Papua New Guinea to split from the PNGFA-organised and FIFA-accredited National Soccer League, eventually forming a rival association, the Football Federation Papua New Guinea (FFPNG).

During the lead-up to the delayed election of the PNGFA president in December 2016, Hekari United President John Kapi Natto, who at the time was one of three contenders for the presidency, was suspended for 'non-compliance to the FIFA electoral code.'[38] Kapi Natto expressed his frustration at the decision, which came just three weeks before the election, and also claimed that the election was deferred from August to December because incumbent, David Chung, didn't have the numbers to support his re-election.[38] Former acting general secretary of the PNGFA, Noel Mobiha, later condemned the decision, saying it 'was not in the best interests of soccer in the country.'[39] On 29 December 2016, Chung was re-elected as president of the association.[40] The following day, Kapi Natto declared that Hekari United, along with 11 of the 18 other associations affiliated with the PNGFA, would be pulling out of the upcoming National Soccer League season.[41]

On 2 February 2017, Hekari United were disqualified from the 2017 OFC Champions League after the PNGFA filed a formal complaint against the club and Kapi Natto.[42][43] The ruling claimed that by making 'numerous derogatory public statements regarding the PNGFA', as well as several players failing to report for international duty, the club had 'engaged in behaviour that damaged the integrity of football.'[42] Despite this, NSL competition manager Simon Koima maintained that Hekari's participation in the 2017 National Soccer League was still possible,[44] but on 27 February, Kapi Natto launched the Football Federation Papua New Guinea and its flagship competition, the National Premier League.[45]

The 2017 National Soccer League kicked off in May, with only 4 of the 12 clubs from the previous season remaining: Lae City Dwellers, Madang FC, PS Huawei and Besta PNG United. New sides included Buang FC and Southern Strikers.[46]

The season was riddled with difficulties, beginning with new side Southern Strikers withdrawing without playing a match.[46] They were replaced by Vitis Yamaros FC. After several deferred and even cancelled matches, the season was set to conclude with the playoffs in August, despite tense political developments in certain areas of the country due to the national election.[47] However, PS Huawei disbanded before their rearranged playoff semi-final, citing poor management of the competition, while the NSL itself cancelled the Grand Final, which would have been between Lae City Dwellers and Madang FC, blaming 'the rainy season in Lae, the national elections and the failure of some clubs to pay their fees in full'.[46][48] Lae City Dwellers were declared champions, having maintained the best regular season record.

2018–present: Possible league reunification[edit]

The 2018 season was completed in slightly smoother fashion than the previous one, with Southern Strikers successfully replacing Vitis Yamaros FC, while all four other clubs (aside from disbanded PS Huawei) remained in the division, alongside new sides FC Morobe Wawens and FC Momase. Lae City Dwellers were renamed Toti City Dwellers for sponsorship reasons.[49] That said, the season was not without its difficulties. In early January, shortly after the season began, the PNGFA were banned from using all PNG Sports Foundation facilities due to outstanding payments from the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, which took place in the country.[50] On May 3, it was decided that all the remaining matches were to be forfeited, as only four sides - Toti City, Besta PNG Utd, Morobe Wawens and Madang - had paid their affiliation fee in full.[51] However, by the following week, Southern Strikers settled their fee, and their remaining matches were rescheduled, while Buang and Momase had 0–3 defeats awarded against them in all their outstanding fixtures.[51][52]

Following investigations into corruption, David Chung stepped down from his roles as OFC President, PNGFA President and on the FIFA Council on 6 April 2018, citing personal reasons.[53][54] Shortly thereafter, members of both the PNGFA and the FFPNG agreed to hold talks regarding the league split and other issues surrounding the sport in the country.[55]

Meanwhile, in the Grand Final, Toti City Dwellers defeated Besta PNG United 3–0 in the Grand Final on 26 May 2018 to win their fourth straight title.[56][57][58]

Clubs[edit]

These are the teams for the 2018 National Soccer League.

(*) Papua New Guinea national U-20 team

Participation history and performance by club[edit]

Team Number of Seasons Winners Runners-Up Third Place 2006 07/08 08/09 09/10 10/11 11/12 2013 2014 2015 15/16* 2017 2018
Hekari United 10 8 1 1 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st - -
Morobe FC 9 - 1 4 2nd 3rd 6th 3rd 7th 4th 4th 4th - 3rd - -
Besta PNG United 9 - 1 3 - - - 9th 4th 3rd 2nd 6th 7th N 5th 4th 3rd
Madang FC 8 - 2 - 4th 7th - 8th 6th - - - 4th N 3rd 2nd 4th
Eastern Stars 6 - 2 - - - 5th 5th 2nd 2nd 6th 7th - - - -
Welgris Highlanders 5 - - 1 5th 5th 3rd - - - 8th - - - - -
Lae City Dwellers 5 4 1 - - - - - - - - 3rd 2nd 2nd 1st 1st
Rapatona FC 4 - 1 1 - 4th 4th 2nd - - - - - 4th - -
Gelle Hills 3 - 2 - 3rd 2nd - 7th - - - - - - - -
Tukoko University 3 - - 1 - - - 6th 3rd 5th - - - - - -
FC Port Moresby 3 - 1 - - - - - - - 3rd - 3rd S 3rd - -
NC Civil Works Oro 3 - - - - - - - - - 5th 2nd 6th - - -
Admiralty FC 3 - - - - - - - - - - 5th 5th N 4th - -
University Inter 2 - - 1 - - 2nd 4th - - - - - - - -
Petro Souths FC 2 - - - - - - - 5th 7th - - - - - -
PS Huawei 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - S 6th 3rd -
Buang FC 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5th 7th
Besta Madang Fighters 1 - - - - 6th - - - - - - - - - -
Sepik FC 1 - - - - - 7th - - - - - - - - -
Nabasa United 1 - - - - - 8th - - - - - - - - -
Bulolo United 1 - - - - - - - - 6th - - - - - -
WNB Tavur 1 - - - - - - - - - 7th - - - - -
Erema FC 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - S 4th - -
Gigira Laitepo United 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - N 5th - -
Goroka Gosiha 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - N 6th - -
Yamaros FC 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6th -
Morobe Wawens 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2nd
Southern Strikers 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5th
FC Momase 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6th

Key:

Indicates Grand Final winner.

Indicates Grand Final runner-up.

Indicates 3rd place in the playoffs.

Indicates 4th place in the playoffs.

Indicates team did not qualify for the playoffs.

Position indicated is regular season finish in the table.

(*) For the 2015/16 season, the league was split into a Northern and Southern league. For teams that didn't qualify, their division is indicated by an 'N' (for Northern) and an 'S' (for Southern). The top 2 teams from each regional division went on to a second group stage; their second group stage finish is indicated.

Previous winners[edit]

Previous winners are:

Season Winner Score Runner-up
2006 Hekari United 2–0 Gelle Hills
2007–08 Hekari United 3–2 Gelle Hills
2008–09 Hekari United w/odagger Rapatona FC
2009–10 Hekari United 5–0 Morobe FC
2010–11 Hekari United 4–0 Eastern Stars
2011–12 Hekari United 3–0 Eastern Stars
2013 Hekari United 3–0 FC Port Moresby
2014 Hekari United 3–0# Lae City Dwellers
2015 Lae City Dwellers 4–1 Madang FC
2015–16 Lae City Dwellers 2–0 Hekari United
2017 Lae City Dwellers w/odagger Madang FC
2018 Lae City Dwellers 3–0 Besta PNG United

Notes:

  • dagger Final not played, championship awarded to best regular season team.
  • # Match abandoned after 70 minutes.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]