Samoan club considers opting out of future OFC Champions League tournaments

Samoa’s Lupe Ole Soaga might bypass future OFC Champions League tournaments after their withdrawal from this year’s event when they could not field a team to play Auckland City.

The club says rising costs and confusion over tournament regulations means they could opt out of qualification in future.

Lupe face sanctions after OFC ruled the club had withdrawn from this year’s tournament, contrary to its regulations, and would be referred to the OFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee.

Main photo: Lupe defenders block a free kick against Solomon Warriers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Lupe’s manager La’i Tautiaga told ABC News his club had been hindered by a ruling that excluded 12 players who had played in qualification games for the tournament.

Tournament rules had been interpreted differently in the past, and while his club were forced to leave players out of the squad sent to Vanuatu, other teams were allowed to fly in reinforcements.

Tautiaga says he asked OFC for leniency but was denied.

After two losses at the tournament, the club ran out of fit players and were unable to field a team to play Auckland City.

Tautiaga said the team was unable to get a flight home at that stage and had to rely on the generosity of the local Samoan association to pay for three nights’ accommodation.

Excluded players included some from New Zealand

Before the tournament, Tautiaga told RNZ:

“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.”

The excluded players included some from New Zealand, including Jamie Mason (now with Te Atatu),  Harrison Bolton-Roberts (North Shore United) and Jared Cunniff (North Shore United).

A spokesperson for the Oceania Football Confederation told RNZ Pacific:

“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 8, so those players became ineligible to compete in Vanuatu.”

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