Samoa football champs battling odds to play in Champions League

Lupe players celebrate another goal in the Oceania Champions League qualifying tournament in February Photo: OFC

Samoa’s top club side will play all its ties in the Oceania Champions League with a much-changed side.

Lupe Ole Soaga qualified for the region’s premier football club tournament, being held in Vanuatu, from a qualifying event held in Apia, Samoa in February.

But up to 12 players from that series will miss the finals due to registration rules.

Team manager Lai Tautiaga explained why.

“There are quite a few issues which surfaced this year. And it’s our first time to be informed of such regulations. But we have players who we thought that the qualifying round was sufficient for them to attend the finals; however, it was a different story.

“And also our federation has put forward our transfer window. So the majority of our players had to transfer to different clubs.

“So 12 players from the qualifying tournament left because of that reason.”

Some of those players were from New Zealand, such as Jamie Mason and Harrison Bolton-Roberts, and Englishman Jared Cunniff who has returned to North Shore United in Auckland.

A spokesperson for the Oceania Football Confederation told RNZ Pacific that “because those players returned to New Zealand and joined other clubs here, they effectively transferred and the deadline to register players for the Champions League was February 8th, so those players became ineligible to compete in Vanuatu”.