OFC Champions League newcomers Nalkutan FC are set to make further history as they gear up to make their debut in the region’s premier international club competition in Oceania, and host a group for the first time.
The Vanuatu Football Federation has successfully bid to host a group and were awarded Group A hosting rights during the OFC Executive Committee meeting this month.
Group A will be held from 10-18 February 2018 and will feature Vanuatu champions Nalkutan, Papua New Guinea club side Lae City Dwellers, Fiji’s Ba FC and the winners of the OFC Champions League Qualifying Stage which will be revealed at the end of January.
VFF President Lambert Maltock was pleased with the successful bid and believes it will be a great opportunity for Vanuatu football and the Nalkutan club to host the group.
Federation Tahitienne de Football and AS Dragon will be welcoming the Solomon Islands champions, AS Lossi and Erakor Golden Star to Papeete where the stage will be set for Group B action.
From the 24 February to 4 March, eight-time regional champions Auckland City will host their group for the second year in a row. Lautoka FC, Madang FC and AS Venus will travel to New Zealand in the hopes of unseating the competition’s most successful club.
Group D plays out concurrently in Honiara where three-time finalists Team Wellington will travel with AS Magenta and the Qualifiers runner-up to join the runner-up of the Solomon Islands S-League.
OFC Competitions Director Chris Kemp said the continuation of this format offers OFC Member Associations, and the clubs themselves, something to capitalise on.
“Local communities are being offered the chance to watch the teams they’ve followed all season compete on the highest stage the region has to offer,” he explained.
“It also provides an opportunity for these teams to reward their fans.”
Kemp said it allows the OFC Competitions Department to work with clubs and Member Associations more closely.
“This format allows us to join with the participating clubs and associations to successfully welcome and host the group stages of this competition.
“For our department it is always beneficial to work with our colleagues across the region both to share our experiences and learn more about the facilities and football culture in each of these nations.
“We are very excited to work with Tahiti and Auckland City on this event for a second year, and look forward to delivering the group matches in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for the first time.”
The OFC Champions League 2018 begins in Pago Pago, American Samoa in January with the four club
champions from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga competing for the two remaining places in the final 16.