For Papua New Guinea it’s not gone to plan as a loss to New Zealand U23 meant they didn’t make the gold medal final. Centre back Alwing Komolong is still happy with the consistency and core of players. He also reveals to Football in Oceania that he has to look for a new club when he returns to Europe.
Words by Ola Bjerkevoll, interview by Richard Ewart in Samoa.
“I’d say we shot ourselves in the foot. We didn’t turn up on the day,” the 24-year-old says of the game against NZ U23, which they lost 2-0, and which ended their hopes of a gold medal.
“Stuff didn’t go our way, but at the end of the day, that’s football. I think we need to be better at these kinds of games, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
This will be PNG’s second bronze final in a row at the Pacific Games, which should be considered a good result with all the happenings of PNG soccer in the last few years. Komolong believes the core of players is still solid.
“I think we still have a good core of players, with the disruption it’s good that we see that consistency with the players that were in the Nations Cup final in 2016 as well. We can only go upwards from here.”
PNG take on Fiji for a big battle at 12pm today local time.
For the big centre back the end of the Pacific Games also means he has to start looking for a new club, as he will not continue at his previous club, Fortuna Köln, who got relegated from the third tier of Germany last season.
He wants to continue his career in Europe but admits it’s not easy.
“I’m currently looking for a club. I’m looking to go back over and see what happens. It’s certainly not easy being a 24-year old Papua New Guinean in Europe but I’ll see what comes my way. I’m sure something will come my way.
“I’ve learnt a ton of stuff in Europe. The game there is all “total football”, in a professional environment. You pick up so much playing with professionals day in and day out, seeing how they behave and act in training and games, it’s an amazing experience. If you want to compete to be the best, you have to be the best every day pretty much. It’s not really a day off, when you can slack off.”
Luck has certainly not been on Komolong’s side for his stint in Europe.
Tomasz Kaczmarek has recruited Komolong twice, to Stuttgarter Kickers and Fortuna Köln, and both times have had to leave the club shortly after Komolong arriving. That has not helped the centre back.
“I’ve had the same coach twice and he’s been sacked twice. But that’s part of the business and you can’t dwell on it. You have to work hard and make sure you have something to offer. It certainly hasn’t been easy but the biggest thing I’ve learnt is keep working hard no matter the situation.”
Fellow PNG star Tommy Semmy, who is not at the Pacific Games, due to club commitments, is currently trialing with the Wellington Phoenix, who play in the Australian A-League.
A move for him, following Fiji star Roy Krishna’s departure to India, could open doors for other Pacific players, Komolong believes.
“That would be a massive boost [for football in PNG, ed.] and it opens the door for other Pacific talents as well, not just PNG. I think Roy [Krishna] has done a really good job making his mark at Phoenix. It’s positive signs but at the end of the day everyone has to work hard to get where they are.”