OFC Champions League

Next stage unveiled in battle for Oceania club supremacy

The revised competition format, which was adapted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce travel requirements on teams, is split into two phases.

Stage one will determine which clubs contest stage two, which will be an eight-team centralised finals tournament scheduled for August this year.

Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will stage home and away playoffs – involving the champion and runner up from their respective national league – through June, from which each winner will secure qualification to the finals tournament.

OFC Champions League cancelled due to Covid

The competition reached the quarter-final stage after pool play in February and March before the pandemic took hold.

The OFC Champions League playoff matches were due to be played in April and May but were delayed multiple times.

Clubs from New Zealand, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia had advanced to the knockout stages.

The winner of this year's OFC Champions League was set to attend the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar in December.

PNG to host OFC Champions League Group A

PNGFA President John Kapi Natto said this will be the first time for Papua New Guinea to host a group match of the region’s premier international club competition.

“We are excited and looking forward to host an international tournament,” Kapi Natto said.

“It will be a good change for Papua New Guinea football fans to witness Hekari United in action on home soil against top clubs from New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu in February next year. The event will take place from Feb 16-22.”

Toti City Dwellers in high spirits

Upon arrival yesterday at the Jackson’s International Airport, coach Peter Gunemba said making it to the quarter finals is a success story for the team.

Toti City Dwellers FC, formerly known as the Lae City Dwellers, were undefeated in their Group A matches, registering one win and two draws at Stade Yoshida in New Caledonia. 

They finished two points behind group leaders and hosts, Hienghene.

Toti City coach Peter Gunemba said the toughest teams were pooled in Group A, and the high competition pushed his boys beyond their limits.

Group D still an open race

Team Wellington are also keen to secure a win and keep the dream alive, after dropping their first ever Group Stage points in the draw with Marist, when they face Samoa club champions Lupe Ole Soaga in the opening match at Lawson Tama Tuesday.

In the three previous OFC Champions League editions they’ve featured in, Team Wellington had never lost or drawn a match which makes the 1-1 draw against the favourites from New Zealand a feat for Marist.

Tupapa seal OFC Champions League return

The Cook Islands club last featured in the main draw back in 2001 and this is the first time they've progressed to the Group Stage via the Qualifier.

Sean Latimer put Tupapa in control with two goals in the opening 22 minutes and, along with Maro Bonsu-Maro, ended the match with a hat-trick.

Soakai Vea won a penalty for Veitongo after the half hour but lost his cool and was shown a red card.

Host countries announced for OFC Champions League

Group A will be held in Vanuatu from 10-18 February, with local debutantes Nalkutan FC joined by Papua New Guinea's Lae City Dwellers, Ba FC from Fiji and the winners of the Qualifying Stage.

Tahiti's AS Dragon will host Group B in Papeete, which also features New Caledonia's AS Lossi, Erakor Golden Star from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands champions.

Defending champions Auckland City will host their group for the second year running, from 24 February to 4 March, alongside Fiji's Lautoka FC, Madang FC from Papua New Guinea and AS Venus of Tahiti.

Lautoka FC qualify for OFC Champions League

Lautoka haven’t made an appearance in the region’s premier international club competition since 2011, and made sure their return would be a deserved one.

The side remains undefeated in the national league, topping the table with 34 points with one last match to play against Rewa.

Despite falling short in both the Fiji Fact and Battle of the Giants, Kamal Swamy’s side regrouped to ensure a fairytale run to the OFC Champions League maintaining an unbeaten run of 13 consecutive league games.

Marist eye upset in OFC Champs League deciders

But the Solomon Islands champions admit they'll need to be at their very best to upset hosts and Group D leaders AS Tefana in Papeete.

The Honiara club was 4-2 winners against Fiji's Rewa in their first match but suffered a frustrating 2-1 defeat to Vanuatu side Erakor in midweek.

They need to beat Tefana by at least two goals to give themselves a chance of progressing to the next round and coach Juliano Schmeling said anything was possible.

Everything on the line in OFC Champions League as Group D wraps

However with a match against rising Solomon Islands powerhouse Marist in their final Group D match, the race to claim that berth in the semi-finals alongside Team Wellington and AS Magenta is far from over.

For his part, Marist coach Juliano Schmeling believes if his side can pick themselves up following their loss to Erakor Golden Star, then anything could happen on the day.

“It’s definitely not easy with the way we lost our second match, but Friday will be a big day because at least three teams are still in the running.”