Thursday, May 06, 2010

Turn-ups mark progress in South East Asian and Oceanian football

From Geoffrey Gold

Football took two strides forward over the weekend in Asia and Oceania with newly emerging countries beating highly fancied neighbours in men and youth international tournaments.

IN SOUTH EAST ASIA, the world’s youngest nation, Timor Leste, won its second successive ConocoPhillips Timor Sea Cup after defeating Australia’s Northern Territory 5-0 and Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara Timur province 3-0. The play-off between NTT and NT was a 0-0 draw giving the Indonesian side the runner-up position on goal difference. All games were played between 30 April and 2 May at the Municipal Stadium in Dili, capital of Timor Leste.

Delayed for a day by heavy rain, the opening game, between TL and NT, was played on 30 April and attended by Timor Leste's Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, Manetelu, and the Director General of Sport Jose Oliveira. Darwin City Council Deputy Lord Mayor and Football Federation Northern Territory board member, Fred Marrone, kicked the ceremonial first ball of the Cup.

The second game, between NTT and NT on 1 May, attracted over 1,500 spectators including the Australian Ambassador to Timor Leste, Peter Hayward. The next day a crowd of over 5,000 saw TL play NTT in the concluding match. Dignitaries included Timor-Leste’s Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and Conoco Phillips representative Peter Smith.

The Timor Sea Cup was inaugurated in Darwin, NT, in 2008 as a men’s U18 football competition to promote football development in the region and to strengthen friendly relationships between the youth of the three neighbouring countries.

Timor Leste, which shares the island of Timor with Nusa Tenggara Timur province, won its independence from Indonesia in a United Nations authorised vote in 1999. The international peace-keeping force sent to restore order during the withdrawal of Indonesian military and militia forces from Timor Leste, after the plebiscite, departed from Darwin.

At the announcement of the second series, the chief executive of Football Federation Northern Territory, Bill Kostandas, highlighted the passion for football in Timor Leste and the enthusiasm of the new nation’s Football Federation president, Francisco Ley and general secretary Amandio de Araujo Sarmento. "As far as skill and professionalism of their players go, East Timor can teach us plenty. We can give back to them through infrastructure, operational and strategic matters," he said.

On 1 May, a Timor Sea Cup Conference was hosted by Mr Sarmento at FFTL headquarters. Attendees were coaches and officials from the three teams as well as Timor-Leste inter-district presidents and senior players. Courtesy of Football Federation Northern Territory, ex-England international and former Manchester United player Paul Parker gave an insight into his career as a professional footballer. Many questions were asked by the attendees including preparation of a team, coaching hints and the future of the game.

The ConocoPhillips Timor Sea Cup has been secured for a further two series with next year’s Cup being held in Darwin, NT, during the Arafura Games (7-14 May 2011). In 2012 the ConocoPhillips Timor Sea Cup will be held in Kupang, West Timor, the capital of NTT province.

Islands Rule!

IN OCEANIA on Sunday, 2 May, Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United FC qualified for the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup as the Oceania Football Confederation’s representative. Hekari United beat New Zealand champions, Waitakere United FC 4-2 on aggregate despite losing 2-1 in the second leg of the O-League final in Auckland, NZ, after a decisive 3-0 win in Port Moresby, PNG, two weeks ago.

Hekari’s win will mean that Oceania will be represented for the first time at the Club World Cup by a team from other than Australia or New Zealand. Since Australia left Oceania in 2006 to join the Asian Football Confederation, Oceania had been represented for three consecutive years by Waitakere.

Hekari is now guaranteed a minimum $500,000 reward for participating in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in December.

“It’s a good moment for football in the island nations,” Hekari assistant coach Tommy Mana said. “The FIFA Club World Cup is another step for us. We know it’s not going to be easy. It’s our first time at a World Cup. It’s a much higher standard and there is much work to do.”

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