John Kapi Natto was elected as President of the Papua New Guinea Football Association on Saturday and he already has several things on his plate, most notably, finding out what his predecessor David Chung did.
“The country of Papua New Guinea was brought into shame by the former President Mr David Chung,” Kapi Natto tells Radio Australia.
The Hekari United President was elected as the new PNGFA President after almost two years out in the freezer, with his club, and several others, being suspended by the previous regime. Now he wants to look into what former President Chung did in his 16 years at the helm of the PNGFA.
Chung left all his posts at the PNGFA, the OFC and FIFA earlier this year under a cloud of suspicion and accusations coming from both inside PNG and in New Zealand.
“I won’t sit and do nothing”
“It tarnished the reputation of Papua New Guinea football. Whether he was guilty or not guilty, the investigation is still going on with FIFA and in New Zealand. But for football in Papua New Guinea, for the last 16 years, money has been promised to build, but we have not seen the tangible development of those things.
“I’m not going to sit down in office and do nothing. I’m going to do an investigation into where all this funding has been going. I will advise FIFA on that. The football family, the future generation needs to know, in the last 16 years of office, what have we done?” Kapi Natto states.
Now he will work to get everyone pulling in the same direction, rebuilding the PNGFA house to its former glory.
“If you want to get into a house you need to know what’s been there for the last 16 years. Now, I don’t know what has been there or not, what has been in good hands and what has been in bad, I’m not really sure. So, the first thing I’m going to do is do a check-up into all the administration, into the accounts, into everything that has been done before. I will probably have a new management that I can trust and have confidence that can take football in PNG forward.”
Gonjuan won’t dwell on the past
One that will remain from the previous President’s regime however, is John Wesley Gonjuan. He was the Vice President under Chung and will take up the same role under Kapi Natto. He doesn’t see any problems with joining the new leadership.
“I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be working with John. I have an open heart. I need to work with him and look at developing soccer in PNG, that is more important than any other matter,” Gonjuan says in an interview with Radio Australia.
“I am prepared to work with an open book, whatever he wants to do, or find out, it’s up to him to come and check. We have gone through a lot of investigations with FIFA and their compliance team and if he wants to come and look, it’s up to him. I respect his decision.”
However, he believes that looking into Chung’s tenure wouldn’t bring anything and that the past should stay in the past.
“David has done his part and now he has moved on so I don’t think we should be dwelling on the past.”
The start of a professional league?
Going forward the PNGFA would like to establish a professional league to better prepare their players for the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers, much like Fiji have stated they want to do, and that is something both men can agree should be done. If it’s feasible.
“Collectively the corporate sponsors, all the partners that are out there, are just waiting for the organization to be structured, to be put in a better position, where they can feel confident putting their money in,” Kapi Natto says.
“They want to ensure that PNG is setting on a course with a new president. I plan to restructure the national soccer league. I want to start a professional competition in the country in preparation for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.”
Gonjuan says they aren’t too sure when they can get the league up and running but that they will look into it.
“We need to look at transforming our semi-pro league into a professional one. In terms of the timing I am not too sure, John and I haven’t gone into details of what he intends to do,” he says.
The national team could finally play football
They also want to see the men’s national team, nicknamed the Kapuls, play more games. Since the split of the two federations back in 2016, it has been the national side that has suffered the most, with Papua New Guinea going from OFC Nations Cup contenders that year, to not having played a game since June last year.
They have not been able to do what Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have done; arrange friendlies. But they are now optimistic that it can be done, now that everything is in order.
“The importance of taking our competition to the next level, build the Kapuls to the next level, take them on training camps […] the light is shining now, I am confident, and I think Papua New Guinea football will never be the same as before,” Kapi Natto says.
“With regards to the international team and international friendlies, that is something that we need to develop. There’s a lot of request from other countries that they want to play with us,” Gonjuan states.
And Gonjuan finally answers the big question once and for all; what is the situation with their national coach Flemming Serritslev?
“We haven’t terminated his contract. We asked him to go and find something alternate to do until we sort ourselves out. He made some remarks that he is willing to come back when the PNGFA is ready, that’s what he said.”
Football in Oceania wishes Kapi Natto, Gonjuan and the entirety of the PNG football community all the best going forward.