OFC: New Caledonia is mourning an emblematic member of the football community following the passing of Gaïtcha president and deputy mayor of Noumea, Dr. Paul Qaeze at the weekend.
The 64-year-old was in the stands at Stade Numa Daly watching his side take on Tiga in the Super Ligue on Friday night when, as Gaïtcha wrapped up a 2-0 victory, he suffered a heart attack.
OFC President David Chung says Qaeze’s passing is a major loss for football in New Caledonia.
“He brought Gaïtcha back to the top of domestic football and oversaw the team’s impressive achievements at the OFC Champions League earlier this year.
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends, the New Caledonia football community and the nation as a whole, as they come to terms with this loss,” Chung says.
Originally from Lifou, Qaeze was considered one of the premier kanak doctors.
Following his return to New Caledonia he first settled on Lifou before moving to the capital, Noumea where he set up his practice at the foot of the towers that made up the Saint Quentin state housing complex.
Head coach of Gaïtcha, Kevin Coma remembers a man who always wanted to do the best he could for others, youth in particular.
“His saying was that it’s through our work that we will succeed. These are the values that he applied, and that he wanted to transmit,” Coma says.
Sport was the perfect tool for this.
Since taking over as president of Gaïtcha in 2009, the team returned to the Super Ligue and even won the Coupe de Caledonie two years later.
The championship title followed in 2013 which led the way for Gaïtcha’s unforgettable performance that saw the club through to a semi-final showdown with Auckland City FC in the 2015 OFC Champions League.
But sport wasn’t where he hung his hat with Qaeze wanting to go further, to affect more people.
In 2014 he became an integral member of Sonia Lagarde’s campaign for mayor, and when she was elected took charge of the youth and sport portfolio.
“It was with immense emotion that we learned of Paul’s passing,” Lagarde says.
“By way of his professional trajectory, his associated commitments and his value of fellow humans, Paul, always warm hearted and active, was a model for each and every one of us.”
One minute of silence was observed at each of the Super Ligue matches held at the weekend.