“Die Meister. Die Besten. Les grandes equipes. The champions!”
It’s CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TIME!
With the New Zealand Football Championship wrapped up for the year, it’s time for the pinnacle of club football in the Oceania confederation, the 2016 Oceania Champions League (OCL).
It’s been three years since the OCL graced New Zealand soil when NZFC teams played home and away legs in the group stages. Since the the competition has reshaped itself into an event hosted by two nations, with the Cook Islands hosting the preliminary stage and New Zealand hosting the finals. This year the entire tournament will take place at the QBE Stadium in Albany between the 8th and 23rd of April.
This year’s competition sees NZFC finalists Team Wellington and Auckland City joined by teams representing Fiji (Suva, Nadi), New Caledonia (Magenta, Lossi), Papua New Guinea (Hekari United, Lae City Dwellers), Samoa (Kiwi FC), Solomon Islands (Solomon Warriors), Tahiti (Tefana) and Vanuatu (Amicale). For the biggest Polynesian city in the world, it’s a big deal.
For the winner, the chance to compete in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. Interestingly this year’s Club World Cup will allow a fourth substitute to be made in extra time, the first time it’s been allowed.
The majority of the group stage has scheduled for weekdays and each match day is a double header, kicking off at 1:30pm and 3:30pm. There are, however, fixtures on the weekends of the 9th/10th and 16th/17th, which both feature New Zealand’s representative teams in action. That’s convenient.
The real fun starts the following week though with the semi-finals being contested on Wednesday 20th and the final on Saturday 23rd of April. The school holidays start that week, so the OCL is a great opportunity to do something with the kids.
Particularly because the whole competition requires no tickets. It’s not free entry, but the OCL have asked for a koha/contribution from those coming, with proceeds going towards the UNICEF Cyclone Winston Relief effort.
So, what’s not to like? International club football, for the price of whatever you can afford to help those in need, during the holidays when the kids might enjoy a day out. It’ll be cheaper than last year’s U20 World Cup and the attendances for that was pretty exceptional for football across New Zealand.
And hey, Auckland City are going for their sixth title in a row and the way the NZFC finished, Team Wellington will be looking to stop them. Nothing like a bit of drama. The stage is set.
We’ll be doing a preview of the three groups in the next 10 days as we countdown towards kick-off.
Categories: OFC Champions League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.