Abu Dhabi: Football fans will be keenly following the progress of Papua New Guinea's Hekari United in the Fifa Club World Cup which kicks off here on December 8.
The unknowns in club football from an equally unknown footballing country created history when they stunned New Zealand's Waitakere United 4-2 on aggregate to become one of the first clubs to book their berths in the 2010 Club World Cup to be held here.
Last year it was Auckland City FC, which represented the Oceania Group and despite playing as an amateur lot they robbed the local fans of their partisan hope when they felled Al Ahli in the opening round. Though they lost their second match, Auckland went on to clinch fifth place in the seven-team event with a thrilling 3-2 win over African champions TP Mazembe.
Hekari United's progress will be all the more keenly followed as they are the first team from outside Australia or New Zealand to be crowned Oceania champions. However, they face a tough task as they take on UFL defending champions Al Wahda in the opening round at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium which will be full of local support.
But with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Port Moresby club can be expected to take full advantage of the exposure to showcase whatever little talent they have to the football fraternity.
One of the stars of the Hekari team who just played football seven years ago is Kema Jack.
According to a Fifa report, Jack hails from a village known as Kaparoko, where there is no electricity or televisions.
In fact, his family will have to travel to Port Moresby to watch TV and see the three-time Golden Boot winner of Papua New Guinea play here.
A fisherman before he wore the boots, Jack scored thrice in the double-leg final to emerge with seven goals and joint-top scorer in the Oceania campaign.
David Muta, another Hekari star who became even more famous after he posed with David Beckham in 2008 when he was part of the Oceania All Stars team which played Beckham's LA Galaxy.
Hekari general manager Vonnie Eteaki Kapi-Natto, who has been with the team since it was established in 2003, said soon after they won the Oceania title: "I want to dedicate our success to all the Pacific Island nations. I'm sure this will be good motivation for our children and young people because they've seen that their brothers can compete and win at this level."
No easy task
Commenting on their Abu Dhabi trip, the club's assistant coach Tommy Mana said: "That's another step up. Here we know the standard but there it will be a lot higher. We know it's not going to be easy but we will work hard."
Whether they work hard or make their rivals work hard, whether they last just one match or fight to live their dream longer, the Papua New Guinea club players will no longer be unknowns after their debut in the Fifa Club World Cup.
- Name of club: Hekari United Club
- Founded: 2003
- Originally known as: PRK Souths United FC
- Titles: Won Papua New Guinea National Soccer League ion 2006, 07, 08 and 09
- OFC O-League: 4th in 2009, winners in 2010
- Co-coaches: Jerry Allen and Tommy Mana
- Captain: Andrew Lepani
- Home ground: PMRL Stadium, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea