Panama-Sulagwalu claimed titled for first time
THE annual To’abaita Authority Rural Development (TARD) soccer tournament in north Malaita has a new champion.
They are Panama-Sulagwalu Football Club who claimed the title for the first time this year after beating Green Snails in a nail-baiting grand-final at Bita’ama on Christmas eve.
Panama-Sulagwalu entered the TARD championship as minors, but their first match got everyone talking after witnessing the classy footwork the young lads have displayed.
They beat their first opponents Seven Hearts from Kafoasila village with a hat-trick coming from John Abana, who went on to claim the golden boot award.
The momentum from their first encounter propelled the boys to narrowly won their second round match by a lone goal from sneaking Malaita Kings striker Samuel Wanesiofa against Fautha’aro Afoa.
Malu’u White was the next to fall victim to the highly confident Panama-Sulagwalu, with a goal each from strikers Wanesiofa and Abana to secure a quarterfinal spot on match day 3.
The lads from Panama Sulagwalu faced a mountain to climb as they came face to face with three-time TARD champions Green Snail Yellow in the quarter-final.
Both sides showed their class and the game ended in a scoreless draw at full-time.
Panama-Sulagwalu proceeded to win the game 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out to claim their semi-final birth.
Arch-rivals Carios from neighbouring Taba’a village was their semi-final opponents, and it was Abana, a former Marist youth player, who won the day with a well-crafted goal.
History was looming as Panama-Sulagwalu advanced to the grand-final against Green Snails Blue, who by then were carrying the hopes of their brothers whom Panama-Sulagwalu eliminated in the quarter-finals.
Green Snails Yellow were confident of keeping the Cup at their home at Bita’ama but the boys from Panama Sulagwalu were also looking at writing their own history.
As the crowd and supporters held their breathe for the 20-minute grand-final show, Abana cleverly grabbed his sixth goal of the tournament and the only goal in the final to give Panama-Sulagwalu the much coveted trophy for the first time.
It was a remarkable finishing to a brilliant start.
“We’ve trained hard for this championship and I think we’ve deserved the victory today,” play maker Max Osifalea said.
“I wish to dedicate this victory and success to all the players for their commitments and discipline during the tournament,” Osifalea added.
The annual TARD soccer tournament was organised by To’abaita university students studying abroad.
At least 60 teams from the To’abaita region took part in the 4-day seven-a-side soccer knock-out.
TARD soccer statistics:
Panama-Sulagwalu – First prize
Green Snails Blue – Second prize
Cairos FC – Third prize
Top scorer: John Abana
By SIMON ABANA
USP journalism student