Soccer followers in Papua New Guinea will be treated to a special ‘Clash of the Year’ fixture this Sunday at the PNG Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
Competing as underdogs will be the FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s team against host PNGFA All-Stars team.
This official visit by the head of the international football body is significant given it was his intention to visit recognised OFC member associations.
Infantino’s visit marks the third time a FIFA president has visited PNG.
PNGFA President John Kapi Natto officially announced the visit and said it is an honour to host Infantino who is no stranger to the country.
“He last visited here when he was on his campaign trail to stand for FIFA presidency post after former FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned.
“He returned after assuming the role as FIFA President to watch the finals of the FIFA under 20 Women’s World Cup that was held here in Port Moresby in 2016,” Kapi Natto said.
“FIFA president’s visit to PNG and the rest of the island nations is more than just a symbolic visit, I think he has more heart in the island or we call it ocean 11.”
His visit will include an overnight stay as he arrives at 12pm in Port Moresby and depart the next day for Solomon Islands to complete his Oceania Tour.
So far, he has visited Tahiti, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji.
His visit will also include a football showcase match against PNG’s former soccer players, and the official unveiling of the plaque at the PNG Football Stadium.
“I also announce that he comes in with 13 representatives and they are also here for a football showcase match and in that team, there is about three professional players coming in, which will also play our PNG legends that are former PNG reps,” Kapi Natto said.
General Secretary Gordon Manub announced the list of the visiting delegation that will be playing against the local reps.
“Also part of his tradition wherever he travels is there is always a football match with the local people at the country that he visits, and we are no exception what the match will be a 9 aside match,” Manub added.
He said from the PNG side they have gone ahead and selected some of the PNG legends to play against the president and his team.
“We play against President Infantino’s team when they come, the president’s team has a group of players that have represented and played football in their lives also that will be here, the president of OFC will also be part of that team and a special referee that everyone knows and we are surprised and fortunate that he will also be on the team that will come,” Manub said.
Chairman of the President’s visit Dan Kakaraya said the visit will also include the official opening of the facelift that has been given to the PNG Football Stadium.
“To unveil the plaque created for him to commemorate and officiate the rehabilitation of the PNGFA’s head office, the office formally used to be in Lae is relocated to Port Moresby, therefore this will mark the relocation and establishment of the office for PNGFA,” Kakaraya added.
Kapi Natto expressed his gratitude towards the visit stating that sometimes the world sees us as very small, but I think that to President Infantino and FIFA, they see that the island nations make up the rest of the football nation in the world.
His visit has a great significance to everyone in the Pacific Region,it will also give him a first-hand view of what has been done as FIFA is responsible in terms of development associated in the country and also the money they’ve spent is been put to good use.
Infantino will be the third FIFA president to visit Papua New Guinea.
The first being Joao Havenlange in 1983 and Sepp Blatter in 2007.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS