Lupe Ole Soaga

Samoa football champs battling odds to play in Champions League

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.

Lupe eye main draw spot with commanding win

The win in the OFC Champions League 2023 Qualifying Play-Offs in Apia, sets them up for a showdown against the day’s other winners, Tupapa Marererenga of Cook Islands.

Lupe came in with a mood to attack, with a free kick offering the chance for their first goal after 15 minutes. Jamie Mason sent it in for Andrew Setefano to play the ball down to Jared Cuniff to finish and make it 1-0.

Samoan club Lupe Ole Soaga’s rise

The Samoan club created history earlier this year when they beat Fiji’s Ba FC 4-3 in their Group D OFC Champions League clash in Tahiti, which marked the first time a team had won a pool game since the current Qualifying Stage format was introduced in 2013-2014.

Lupe’s momentum carried them to domestic success as they recently defended their 2020 Samoa National League title. Their women’s side also claimed national honours, as well as their reserve team.

Samoa football team ready for OFC Champions League qualifier

The team meets Veitongo FC of Tonga in the opener at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland on Saturday.

Prior to their departure, Lupe Ole Soaga team members and management attended a special service at Magiagi Methodist Church in Samoa.

Reverend Faavae Sooalo inspired the players with the biblical story of Gideon and his soldiers who were surrounded by enemies.

Of the thousands of Gideon’s soldiers, only 300 returned who lapped water from the brook putting their hand to mouth.

Rev Sooalo said the soldiers who drank desperately failed.

Welly and Marist through to OFC Champions League quarters

“I’m delighted. We knew it was going to be a big challenge to come over here, to acclimatise and lastly to face three good, good teams and I think it’s been evident all three games that the level and the intensity and quality of the Champions League is raising every year,” Team Wellington coach Jose Figuiera said after securing top of the group.

“I was really pleased with the way we topped the week off today.”

Wellington defeat Samoan club champions Lupe Ole Soaga

Team Wellington had no trouble as Taylor Schrijvers nailed the opening goal within the first two minutes of the match.

It set the tone for a Team Wellington goal-fest as the side’s Guernsey FC recruit Ross Allen found his form to net twice in the first half. His hat-trick came on the 68th minute, at which point it was time for a breather as coach Jose Figuiera brought Daniel Mulholland on.

The 20-year-old Jack-Henry Sinclair scored a tidy goal at the end of the first half, with substitutes Mulholland and Nathaneael Hailemariam rounding out the scoring.

Group D still an open race

Team Wellington are also keen to secure a win and keep the dream alive, after dropping their first ever Group Stage points in the draw with Marist, when they face Samoa club champions Lupe Ole Soaga in the opening match at Lawson Tama Tuesday.

In the three previous OFC Champions League editions they’ve featured in, Team Wellington had never lost or drawn a match which makes the 1-1 draw against the favourites from New Zealand a feat for Marist.

Samoa's Lupe Ole Soaga seeking major improvements

The Samoan domestic winners finished second in last month's qualifying tournament in Pago Pago, behind Tupapa Maraerenga, to advance to the main draw.

Their only slip-up was a 1-0 defeat against the Cook Islands club, where they were reduced to ten men.

Coach Paul Ualesi said discipline remains a key focus.

"Trying to get the boys to work as a team. For now we're still working hard for the discipline - that's the main thing that we need to improve from the first round, that's an area that we're trying to work," he said.

Lupe Ole Soaga, Veitongo battle for final berth

The Samoan side are second in the Champions League Qualifier standings, with one win and one loss from the opening two rounds in Pago Pago.

A draw against Tonga's Veitongo FC would be enough to join Tupapa Maraerenga in reaching the main draw but coach Paul Ualesi says they won't be holding back.

"The boys are preparing really well for Veitongo, our brothers from Tonga because we respect them as well," he said.

Tupapa seal OFC Champions League return

The Cook Islands club last featured in the main draw back in 2001 and this is the first time they've progressed to the Group Stage via the Qualifier.

Sean Latimer put Tupapa in control with two goals in the opening 22 minutes and, along with Maro Bonsu-Maro, ended the match with a hat-trick.

Soakai Vea won a penalty for Veitongo after the half hour but lost his cool and was shown a red card.