Sport: Spotlight on New Caledonia for OFC Champions League final

All eyes will be on Stade Numa Daly this afternoon when AS Magenta and Hienghène Sport clash in the first ever OFC Champions League football final between two clubs from New Caledonia.

Magenta qualified for the title decider by beating nine-time winners Auckland City 2-1 in the semifinals, while domestic rivals Hienghène defeated reigning champions Team Wellington 2-1.

Jefferson Dahite (c) scored in stoppage time to seal victory.

Hienghène are competing in their first ever OFC Champions League final.
Photo: OFC via Phototek

President of the New Caledonia Football Federation, Steeve Laigle, said it’s an exciting time for football in the territory.

“We’re proud that the work these two clubs have done over the past few years is paying off, and we’re at the point today of having New Caledonian clubs as the best in Oceania,” he said.

“New Caledonia is a small country and it’s a first for us, we’re very excited at home to be organising this final, and we’ll try and make sure it’s a beautiful celebration of football,” the Kone-based President added.

AS Magenta were beaten 2-0 by Sydney FC in the 2005 OFC Club Championship grand final but Saturday’s match will mark the first time two clubs from outside New Zealand have reached the title match in the OFC Champions League era.

As Magenta celebrate a goal during their 8-0 victory over Central Sport.

AS Magenta last appeared in an Oceania club final in 2005.
Photo: Massimo Colombini/OFC

It’s also the first time the two domestic rivals have faced off in Oceania since Hienghène Sport made their Champions League debut in 2017.

Magenta have the edge in domestic head to head matches but Hienghène are the reigning Super Ligue champions and currently top the standings five rounds into the new season.

But Laigle said he wouldn’t like to call the result of Saturday’s match.

“I’m the president of both clubs, so I can’t have a favourite. If we talk in terms of statistics Magenta has a psychological advantage because these two clubs meet regularly in the Coupe de Calédonie and Magenta has the advantage here,” he said.

“But if we look at the last match of the championship, Hienghène has an advantage on the field.”

Laigle said having two teams reach the Champions League final is “immense both in terms of profile and development” for football in New Caledonia.

“Having two teams from New Caledonia in the final shows that anything is possible,” he stated.

“It also means in New Caledonia, in our championship, this will certainly help lift the level. Every team, every weekend of the competition will be trying to beat the champion and runner-up of Oceania. It will certainly help lift the level of our championship.”

The OFC Champions League winners will also represent Oceania in the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.

The OFC Champions League Trophy overlooks Noumea ahead of the 2019 Grand Final.

The OFC Champions League Trophy overlooks Noumea ahead of the 2019 Grand Final.
Photo: Oceania Football

Published at Sat, 11 May 2019 03:02:07 +0000
Source: Sport: Spotlight on New Caledonia for OFC Champions League final