"Two giants, too small"- description of the hype in Honiara ahead of O-League's final between Kossa and Waitakere tomorrow
The first leg of the OFC O-League 2008 final is already generating an atmosphere of tense anticipation for the clash between Oceania's two best clubs, Waitakere United of New Zealand and Kossa FC of Solomon Islands. Solomon Islands has been starved off quality football games and so the hype surrounding this clash is understandable. Officially some 9,000 tickets have been printed but judging from past experience. Lawson Tama could easily surpass and double that number with another 10 thousand squinting through the fence while others will be listening to the live broadcast on national radio.
Solomon Islands football fans will be deeply divided between its home grown talents gracing the Kossa line-up and its own stars in Commins Menapi and Benjamin Totori who have led Waitakere all season long. Driving to work I noticed a spray painted sign a fair way past Fishing Village, "Waitakere Bust Kossa", a clear indication of who the folks in Totori's home village will be supporting. Thousands of fans will be in attendance and although the rivalry will be intense I am sure fans will accept any result owing to the strong presence of Solomon Islanders in both teams.
STAR OF THE DAY
Benjamin Totori has poised himself in an enviable position by signing with the US professional soccer league, another nemesis is already a star in football's own abbreviated code, beach soccer. Two stars in their own right, Totori will find himself sharing the limelight with James Naka, Solomon Islands prolific beach soccer star whose exceptional scoring spree in two past Beach Soccer World Cup on the Copacabana beach in Brazil left little doubt that he can compete.
Two very distinct styles. Benjamin is ever present, initiating every move and can singlehandedly create space with his weaving run and feeding off short passes and bursts of pace. James is a player in the Ryan Giggs mold, a facilitator who is also a potent threat at the goalmouth. While Totori makes deep penetrating runs towards goal, Naka lurks around further away from goal but has a lethal left footed shot; ask any goalkeeper stunned flat footed.
Totori and Naka are small in size lacking the height advantage you would normally associate with strikers, both are slightly built but with quick feet, sharp instincts and an unrelenting drive to beat any defender one on one. But their day has finally come; a chance to shine and be noticed. Two giants, too small.
WHO WILL WIN
Saturdays clash will be won by which ever team is able to impose its style on the game. Waitakere will be disciplined, tough and very physical. Its not every day that we get to watch them play but Kossa should expect some degree of very structured football with plenty of firepower in a Menapi Totori double header. While Totori will be a constant threat, Menapi is a big game performer, a reliable scorer who has a knack for scoring in big games. Allan Pearce has been scoring goals of late and could be a dark horse. Captain Danny Hay already commands respect and can impose leadership on field and that could offset any Kossa onslaught.
Kossa must avoid playing the game to entertain. Kossa's success will depend on how well Joe Luwi can facilitate chances for PNG import, Reginald Davani and the degree with which he can involve Naka. Kossa's defense is strong, Gideon Omokirio is a seasoned campaigner with a reliable Samson Takayama and experienced Severino Aefi in goal. Unknown quantities Paul Wale and Seni Ngava or Sammy Wa'ahero can suddenly have a great game day and may be problematic for Waitakere.
Kossa will claim to be underdogs looking for an upset as Waitakere have been known to falter away from home in the O-League. But coming fresh out of an inspiring win over Wellington in the NZFC Finals, Waitakere may just have the edge to close off what is anticipated to be a close encounter here in Honiara. Should Kossa score first and early, then we may have a different ball game in our hands.
May the best team win. For the Game For the World.