After two years out in the cold, Hekari United is set to make their return to the National Soccer League when it kicks off in January. They have wasted no time in stating their intent for the campaign by bringing in their former superstar head coach Jerry Allen.
Under Allen’s tutelage, lasting almost ten years until their suspension from the PNGFA in 2016, Hekari United saw tremendous success and became the first ever non-Australian or New Zealand club to win the OFC Champions League. A feat they are still the only one to manage.
The Solomon Islander has since coached in his home country, leading Marist FC in the OFC Champions League, and on his return to PNG, he will bring his little brother Jerry Sam, who will take charge of the Hekari Academy.
“I am truly excited and the arrival of Jerry Allen and his brother Sam will ease some extra work on my shoulder and they can concentrate on the coaching and driving our young and experienced team while I focus on managing the affairs of the franchise,” franchise owner and manager of Hekari, Vonnie Kapi Natto, told newspaper Post-Courier.
Speaking to Loop Kapi Natto said she was glad that Hekari would be back and that she regarded their removal last time as unfair and an “insult after we worked so hard”.
Allen is excited to be back and believe the team can recapture their lost glory.
“I am very happy to be back. I am looking forward to the season and obviously my goal is to reclaim that lost pride which Hekari was known for,” Allen told the Post-Courier.
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The 39-year-old will see several familiar faces return as he will have former player Eric Komeng as his assistant, returning to the role he had the last time Allen was at Hekari.
As for the players, Hekari have managed to keep a hold of quite a few despite their troubles and Allen will have captain David Muta, vice-captain Koriak Upaiga, Daniel Joe, Kila Polena, Leslie Kalai, Ismael Pole and Willie Gia all still wearing the Hekari shirt.
The pre-season is already well underway, Kapi Natto explains, with the local players having been in training for some time.
“The Port Moresby-based players have been in training for the last two months. While the rest of the team just arrived yesterday (Monday) with the head coach. They will all go straight into training under Jerry (Allen) and his brother,” Mrs. Kapi Natto said.
The 2019 NSL season kicks off on January 19th.