Lae City F.C.

Lae City FC, formerly known as Lae City Dwellers FC or Toti City FC, is a professional football club founded in 2014[1] and based in Lae, Papua New Guinea. The side currently plays in the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League, the highest level of football competition in PNG.[2]

Lae City FC
Lae City FC logo.jpeg
Full nameLae City Football Club
Founded2014; 8 years ago (2014)
GroundSir Ignatius Kilage Stadium
Capacity1,500
OwnerIan Chow
Head coachBob Morris
LeaguePapua New Guinea National Soccer League
2021TBA

Alongside Hekari United, the club is one of only two sides to have won a Papua New Guinea National Soccer League.[3] The side has also competed in four editions of the OFC Champions League, with their best result coming in the 2018 and 2019 editions, when they reached the quarter-finals.

HistoryEdit

Foundation and first NSL titleEdit

The club was founded by Raymond Gunemba in 2014, who left Hekari United to form a new club based in Lae under his father Peter's management. It was the formal successor of Lae F.C. The side entered the 2015 National Soccer League season having acquired much of the local talent from Lae due to Morobe FC's withdrawal from the competition.[4] The side performed well in the opening half of the season, despite a 3–0 defeat to Hekari early on, and at the half way stage were just one point behind the reigning champions in second place.[5] In their final match of the regular season, while level on points with opponents Hekari, the side lost 3–1, enough to finish second and qualify for the 2016 OFC Champions League, as well as the NSL playoffs.[5]

In a shock semi-final result, fourth-placed Madang defeated Hekari to deny the eight-time champions a Grand Final berth.[6] That meant Lae's path to the title did not require a victory over Hekari, whom they had never beaten in a competitive match. The side defeated FC Port Moresby 3–1 in their semi-final before a 5–1 victory over Madang granted them their first ever National Soccer League title.[7]

The following season, the 2015–16 National Soccer League, was completed before Lae's debut in the OFC Champions League. With 12 teams entered, Lae and Hekari were separated for the majority of the regular season, with Lae taking part in the Northern Zone, and Hekari in the Southern. Both sides won their respective pools, and alongside Morobe FC and Rapatona, entered the 'National Champions League', a four-team group with the top two qualifying for a single-match final.[8] Lae finished second in the group, behind Hekari, with whom they drew 0–0 and lost 5–0, extending their winless streak against the side. In the Grand Final, however, the side finally broke their streak with a shock 2–0 victory over Hekari, just one week after the 5–0 defeat, to claim their second title and their first competitive victory over Hekari.[9] This would be the last time the two teams would face each other in domestic football for over two years, as Hekari United become one of the clubs to break away from the National Soccer League in late 2016.[10]

Continental debutEdit

Meanwhile, the side took part in their first ever continental competition, the 2016 OFC Champions League, in April 2016. Despite some competitive matches, including a narrow 2–1 defeat against eventual winners Auckland City FC from New Zealand and an entertaining 5–4 defeat against Solomon Islands' Solomon Warriors, the side lost all three of their group matches.[11]

Due to the league split the start of the 2017 season in Papua New Guinea was delayed until May 2017. That meant the side completed their participation in the 2017 OFC Champions League before the domestic season began. On 11 March 2017, they won their first ever continental match against Malampa Revivors of Vanuatu, winning 5–2.[12] They once again faced Auckland City in their second group fixture, going down 2–0, before an entertaining 5–3 defeat against Western United of the Solomon Islands ended their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.

League splitEdit

They returned for the rather chaotic 2017 season in which only six teams took part, and only four completed all of their scheduled fixtures – all four of which, as a result, qualified for the playoffs, with Lae topping the regular season table. Having won their semi-final 2–1 against Besta PNG United, they were due to play Madang in the final, but the NSL board scrapped the final and awarded the championship to Lae, blaming 'the rainy season in Lae, the national elections and the failure of some clubs to pay their fees in full'.[13][14]

The side returned to defend their title again in the 2018 season, to which they made an excellent start, beating Besta PNG United 3–2 in their opening fixture[15] before an 8–1 thrashing of Buang FC the following weekend[16] and a 7–2 demolishing of the previous season's runners-up Madang in the last week of January 2018.[17] The side headed to Port Vila, Vanuatu, the venue for their 2018 OFC Champions League group stage matches, top of the domestic league with four wins from four.

On 10 February 2018, they defeated Tupapa Maraerenga from the Cook Islands 7–2 in their opening Champions League match, with Raymond Gunemba scoring four goals.[18] Three days later, they secured themselves a spot in the quarter-finals of the competition with a narrow 1–0 victory over Fiji's Ba.[19] They eventually came second in the group after losing 4–1 to hosts Nalkutan, and were drawn against New Zealand's Team Wellington in the quarter-finals, to be played in April.

The club returned to Papua New Guinea for a full set of domestic fixtures in March, and they won a crucial match against FC Morobe Wawens 3–2 on 3 March, which set them on their way to an unbeaten regular season. Before the playoffs though, they travelled to Wellington, New Zealand, for their Champions League quarter-final. On 7 April 2018, they lost 11–0 to Team Wellington, the eventual champions, with head coach Peter Gunemba saying afterwards that he wasn't really sure what went wrong.[20]

The domestic playoff semi-finals were scheduled for 20 May 2018, and Toti City were drawn against Madang FC, who had finished fourth. The underdogs gave the reigning champions a run for their money, with the tie eventually being settled on penalties in Toti City's favour.[21] In the Grand Final on 26 May, the side picked up their fourth straight title with a 3–0 victory over Besta PNG United.[22]

League reunificationEdit

Following the reunification of the two federations in the country,[23] the club returned to the expanded National Soccer League to defend their title, and were drawn into the Northern Conference.[24] The club won their opening game against Morobe United 3–2,[25] before flying to New Caledonia for the group stage of the 2019 OFC Champions League.[26] The club were able to remain unbeaten in the group stage, defeating Malampa Revivors of Vanuatu 4–2 and drawing 3–3 with AS Tefana of Tahiti and 1–1 with hosts (and eventual winners) Hienghène Sport, results which were enough to see them through to the quarter-finals in second place.[27] The side returned to domestic affairs well down in the Northern Conference table, but put together a run of six consecutive victories until a 0–0 draw with Morobe United.[28] By then, the side were top.[29]

On 6 April 2019, the side played nine-time champions Auckland City in New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the 2019 OFC Champions League. The club lost 4–0.[30][31] The following week, upon their return to Papua New Guinea, the club suffered their only defeat of the domestic season, losing 1–0 to Besta PNG United.[32] They recovered and eventually finished top of the Northern Conference,[29] going on to play Highlands Conference runners-up Blue Kumuls in the quarter-finals. Six goals from Raymond Gunemba helped them to an 8–1 victory.[33] A two-legged victory over Morobe United in the semi-finals followed,[34] before the club picked up their fifth consecutive title on penalties against Hekari United, after the match remained goalless after extra time.[35]

The side were one of ten teams taking part in the 2019–20 Papua New Guinea National Soccer League, and the season was running relatively smoothly until mid-February and their participation in the 2020 OFC Champions League. Following the side's elimination at the group stage, club owner Ian Chow fired manager Peter Gunemba, and a mass exodus of players followed, including key players Raymond Gunemba and Nigel Dabinyaba, who both defected to title rivals Hekari United.[36] Bob Morris was brought in as the new coach, and the side recruited brothers Alwin and Felix Komolong, among others, to replace the departed players.[37] The side went unbeaten in the second half of the season, winning four matches and drawing three to earn the Minor Premiership and qualify for the playoffs.[38] Following victory over fourth-placed Gulf Komara in the semi-finals, the side earned their sixth title with a 1–0 victory over newcomers Vitiaz United in the Grand Final.[39]

Two entitiesEdit

Ahead of the 2021 season, it was announced that there would be two clubs competing under similar names – Lae City FC and Lae City Dwellers.[40][41][42] The Dwellers side claimed to be the original club, led by coach Peter Gunemba and his sons Raymond and Troy, while the Ian Chow-owned Lae City side continued with the current name and logo, and coach Bob Morris in his role.[43][44]

Current squadEdit

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
GK   PNG Matheson Nasa
GK   PNG Ronald Warisan
GK   PNG Ismael Maddang
DF   PNG Emmanuel Airem
DF   PNG Mosie Milubwa
DF   PNG Valentine Nelson
DF   PNG Thomas Yagum
DF   PNG Maybon Pwesei
DF   PNG Eddie Managu
MF   PNG Jacob Sabua
No. Pos. Nation Player
MF   PNG Emmanuel Simon
MF   PNG Walbo Komuna
MF   PNG Joel Seske
MF   PNG Alu Awi
MF   PNG Alwin Komolong
FW   PNG Felix Komolong
FW   PNG Obert Bika
FW   PNG Joshua Oscar
FW   PNG Murray Silikara

Current technical staffEdit

Position
Head coach   Bob Morris
Assistant coach   Raymond Nasa
Team manager   Peter Dabinyaba

League historyEdit

Lae City league history
Season Div. Pos. Pld. W D L F A Pts. Playoffs OFC?
2006 did not enter
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2013
2014
2015 NSL 2nd 12 7 2 3 28 16 23 Champions did not qualify
2015–16 NSL
(North)
1st 10 7 2 1 24 16 23 Champions Group Stage
2017 NSL 1st 10 9 1 0 40 8 28 Champions
2018 NSL 1st 12 10 2 0 46 15 32 Champions Quarter-Finals
2019 NSL
(North)
1st 14 12 1 1 48 13 37 Champions
2019–20 NSL 1st 18 13 4 1 53 15 43 Champions Group Stage

HonoursEdit

Continental CompetitionsEdit

National CompetitionsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Papua New Guinea – Foundation Dates of Clubs". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  2. ^ "26 clubs set for NSL". The National. 2019-01-11. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  3. ^ "Papua New Guinea – List of Champions". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  4. ^ "League starts Jan 24". The National. 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  5. ^ a b "Papua New Guinea 2015". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  6. ^ "Madang cause major upset". The National. 2015-05-17. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  7. ^ "Lae snares title". The National. 2015-05-24. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  8. ^ "Papua New Guinea 2015/16". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  9. ^ "Lae shocker". The National. 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
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  11. ^ "OFC Champions League grp. A Summary | WhoScored.com". www.whoscored.com. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  12. ^ "First win for Lae City Dwellers, close shave for defending champs". Papua New Guinea Today. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  13. ^ "Papua New Guinea 2017". rsssf.com. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  14. ^ "Sport: PNG's National Soccer League playoffs cancelled". Radio New Zealand. 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  15. ^ "NSL champions win opener in Lae". The National. 2018-01-15. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  16. ^ "City thrash Buang 8-1". The National. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  17. ^ "City outclass Madang". The National. 2018-01-29. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  18. ^ "Toti City FC opens campaign with 7-2 win". Post Courier. 2018-02-12. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
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  20. ^ "Sport: PNG's Toti humbled in OFC mismatch". Radio New Zealand. 2018-04-10. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  21. ^ "Besta FC makes NSL final". Post Courier. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
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  29. ^ a b "Papua New Guinea 2019". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
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  33. ^ "Gunemba stars in Toti City 8-1 victory". Post Courier. 2019-05-13. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
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  36. ^ Sports, Loop (2020-03-13). "Lae FC show solidarity following coach Gunemba's termination". Loop PNG. Retrieved 2020-12-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  37. ^ "Lae City say recruitment of Komolong brothers 'timely'". The National. 2020-08-12. Retrieved 2020-12-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  42. ^ "Lae City Dwellers to Re-Unite Under Peter Gunemba". Oceania Football Center. 2021-06-06. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
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  44. ^ "Morris: Nigerian import Jibola will adapt". Post Courier. 2021-04-29. Retrieved 2021-07-03.