Star sport reporter, Philip Lilomo looks back on the best moments of football in 2008, just one day before we enter into New Year tomorrow.
TENSIONS, drama, suspense, football excitement and surprises – 2008 had it all in footballing terms.
Soccer lovers from all corners of Solomon Islands certainly got their money’s worth as the beautiful game proved just how beautiful it can really be in our country known for its passion in soccer throughout the region.
Emotions and excitement were the order of the day, and 2008 certainly had more than its fair share of tears of joy and sorrow and heart-rending moments in terms of football.
The whole Solomon Islands leaped for joy when the young Kurukuru unexpectedly qualified for the Futsal World Cup.
But it was mixed emotion of heart rending moments and sorrow when our national under-23 just missed out from qualifying for their first Olympic after a vey solid performance in the qualifiers in Fiji.
Futsal 2008 was one of the high points of the year, with the Men’s team competing in the World Cup in Brazil.
And then, mere days after Totori had helped defend their Oceania club champion title with Waitakere United and booked a place in the World Club Championship.
Totori eventually become the first Solomon Islander to play professional football after being signed by Portland Timbers of the USA.
Beach Soccer World Cup 2008 was also one of the highest points of Solomon Islands football this year.
Those were just some of the football highlights and of course stories that grabbed headlines which made Solomon Islands soccer proud this year.
Now here are more details of soccer events in the country this year.
O LEAGUE- KOSSA VS WAITAKERE
The year started off with soccer lovers treated with a chance to witness the final of the O League after Kossa booked a final showdown with Waitakere United of New Zealand.
As usual, fans packed the Lawson Tama stadium not only to support their club champions Kossa but also to see two of the countries most recognised strikers Commins Menapi and the sensational Benjamin Totori playing at home for the first time with Waitakere.
Kossa with their PNG import Reginald Davani, superb combination of James Naka and Joe Luwi and regular big names like Gideon Omokirio, Samson Takayama, Tome Faisi and Severino Aefi did not disappoint the huge crowd that day as they wrote another chapter in the history books as the first Solomon Islands team to beat a New Zealand club.
Kossa brought joy to many in the country and across the region when they beat Waitakere 3-1 in the first leg of the O League final.
But that joy was short lived when they suffered a huge set back, losing to Waitakere in the return leg 5-0 where Totori opened the scoring for his side.
NATIONAL CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
And then came the National Club Championship where champions’ football clubs from all provinces came together in Honiara and produced two weeks of competitive football in the national capital Honiara to decide on the county’s next O League rep.
Unfortunately Renbel, Isabel, Choiseul and Temotu Province were not able to send their club champions to that Tournament.
The absence of the four provinces allowed HFA to enter five Honiara clubs in the tournament namely defending champions Kossa, Marist, Uncles, super 8 winners Koloale and DJ League champions Makuru.
Western and Malaita Province entered two teams each Kokohale and Lagoon Brothers of Western and Landowners and Fasi Roos of Malaita Province.
The qualification of the four Honiara teams Kossa, Uncles, Koloale and Makuru to the semi finals showed the strength of the active league in Honiara compared to the provinces.
Former champions Kossa lost key players in the semis due to suspension and injuries and lost to Makuru 3-1. Eventual winners Koloale beat a determine Uncles 1-0 in the other semi to book a grand final showdown with Makuru.
The grand final between Koloale and Makuru ended in a controversial penalty shootout.
These two teams also meet in the super final which Koloale also won, so that club championship final had rivalry written all over it.
This was evident when the final ended with protest by the Makuru players.
Koloale won on penalty shootouts, and Jeffrey Bule’s spot kick was the centre of controversy as he hit the ball into the goal and rebounded from the inner post which the referee failed to see and had to consult his assistance. The referee later allowed the goal which sparked anger to the Makuru players.
Presentation was delayed because of this, pending on the decision.
Decisions went correctly to Koloale and they earn the right to now represent Solomon Islands in the O League.
Initiated by the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) the first Wantok Cup this year was seen as way of giving national teams from the three Wantok countries PNG, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands a chance to play international matches ahead of the Pacific Games.
PNG was not able to make it to this year’s Wantok Cup leaving only Solomon national team, the Solomon Bonito, Vanuatu national team and Solympics national under-23 to take part.
The young Solympics side lead by captain and goal keeper Shadrick Ramoni edged the two national teams to win the first ever Wantok Cup.
The Wantok Cup is a smaller version of the Melanesian Cup.
DJ LEAGUE 2008
The 2008 season of the DJ League saw some fantastic show of football at Lawson Tama and the AE Oval for fans in Honiara with the league games.
One of the stories making headline on the start of the season was the transfer of national flanker James Naka from Kossa to Zome Mars.
Also the transfer of two best rated player of the DJ League and Makuru key players Sale and Maemae to Auckland City in New Zealand.
With the DJ League this season played in only one round competition was tough with team fighting for the top places on the table.
It was Makuru who lived up to reputation and treated fans in Honiara with some sparkling football to win the DJ League 2008 season finishing on 25 points.
Makuru only managed to getaway with the title after beating O League reps Koloale on goal difference.
GIDEON OMOKIRIO PLAY IN KAREMBEU’S GOLDEN JUBILEE
One of the country’s veteran national player Gideon Omokirio described playing on the Karembeu Golden Jubilee in New Caledonia as one of the highlights of his career as a soccer player.
Omokirio was invited to play in the Karembeu golden jubilee against France and some of the big names of world football like Zinedine Zidane the one time world cup winner and player of the year.
Omokirio revealed that he had learned a lot of their simple way of football and that it takes commitment to become a best player.
Omokirio has represented the country in all level from under 17 to the national team and also captained the national team on a few occasion.
He is also captain of Kossa and the Bilikiki national Beach Soccer Team.
A well deserved achievement for someone who has contributed a lot to nationals teams in the country.
OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS IN FIJI
The Solympics national under-23 showed superiority in the Olympic qualifiers producing scary moments for the other islands country.
With the inclusion of national player Benjamin Totori, Nelson Sale and Alick Maemae in the squad they posed a treat to favorites New Zealand.
The decisive game in that qualifier was the Solomon Islands/ New Zealand match which Solomon Islands finished that game with 9 players.
Totori and Maemae were red carded in that 2-0 nil loss.
Totori ended the tournament with the highest goal scored winning the golden boot.
THRILLS AND DRAMA ON SAND AND INDOORS
Goals banged the back of the net from the left, right and centre this year but not only on the grass but also on the Sand and indoors on the court.
The FIFA Beach Soccer Tournament in France this year saw our very own Bilikiki put up a wonderful display winning their last game against El Salvador.
The Bilikiki bowed out in the pool stages but flew the flag of the Solomon Islands proudly in France, something not many Islands countries have the opportunity to do.
Brazil went on to win the tournament.
Solomon Islands were pooled with Portugal, Italy and El Salvador.
Beach soccer boy continued to shine on the world stage netting eight goals for his country in that World Cup.
The young lads of the Kurukuru national Futsal team went against all odds and qualified for the Futsal World Cup in Brazil.
When the team flew to Fiji for the qualifiers, nobody thought that this team made up of teenagers aged from 17-22 would win.
Both in the country and Solomon Islands community in Fiji flow critics to the team which held their heads high and put God first for their victory.
Kurukuru proved those critics wrong and qualified for the World Cup, a result that stunted the country.
Inspired by their captain Elliot Ragomo the brave Kurukuru flow to Brazil for the World Cup and loss all their games but won many hearts on their way back.
O LEAGUE (KOLOALE)
Our O League reps this year are getting off to a good start in the O League with a win against Hekari at home and a draw away to Ba.
The signing of Henry Fa’arodo and Joses Nawo have boosted the teams morale many have hinted that they are going all the way to the final.
They beat Hekari 3-1 and drew with Ba 0-0.
They have a away game with Hekari left in Port Moresby and a game which looks likely to be the decider against Ba at home.
Both Koloale is leading group B with four points on goal difference ahead of Ba.
Koloale are currently taking a break off training and will resume training on the 5th January in preparation for their next match.
OCEANIA ALL STAR VS BECKHAM”S LA GALAXY
Four Solomon Islands international players had their chance of the life time to play against the Worlds most famous player David Beckham.
Henry Fa’arodo, Judd Molea, Nelson Sale and Alick Maemae were selected into the Oceania All Star team that played Beckham’ Galaxy on December 6th.
Not only against Beckham but along side World Cup winner Karembeu and also guest player Edger Davids.
TOTORI PLAYS IN USA
Solomon Islands sensational striker become the first Solomon Islander to play professional football in the USA when he was signed by Portland Timbers to play in the US Division 1.
But his dreams was short lived when he entered an injury crisis and forced to come home for rehabilitation.
But the electrifying striker refused to back down and continued to shine and joined his old club Waitakere and played in the recent World Club Championship in Japan.
MAEMAE AND SALE JOIN AUCKLAND
Alick Maemae and Nelson Sale were signed by Auckland City in the mid of the DJ League to play in the NZFC and O League.
But for reason unknown the pair were terminated from the Auckland squad.
PNG Club Champions have used seven Solomon Islands international soccer players in the NSL and the O League.
Latest news on the club is that they are after the signature of Bilikiki wonder boy James Naka.
SOLO PLAYERS PLAYS IN IDC IN FIJI
Solomon Islands players joined Fiji clubs for the Inter District Championship.
They are George Lui, Godwin Bebeu and other Solomon Islands students studying in Fiji.
JUDD MOLEA TOP GOLDEN BOOT IN THE DJ LEAGUE WITH 15 GOALS
The first ever Honiara Beach Soccer League started towards the end of this year leading up to the Christmas and New Year period.
Source : Solomon Star
By : Philip Lilomo