Papua New Guinea: The World’s Worst Footballing Nation?

Everyone knows endlessly about the best international football teams in the world. Year after year the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Spain (and so on) head up the FIFA World Rankings and dominate most of the tournaments that come their way. What about the teams wallowing at the bottom of world football, so low they struggle to even find matches to play and when they do they get crushed and stomped all over.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of these sides. Founded in 1962 the PNG Football Association went on to gain affiliation to FIFA in 1966. Playing in red and black they have an awful international record, if truth be told they are ranked the most terrible side in the world right now.They are in the lowly position of 203 and they have won just 16 games in their history. It’s hardly surprising, they have only played 57 matches in their footballing history which is hardly any time to develop your football identity especially  when you consider England have played 893 international matches and most of the nation are still trying to figure them out, including Fabio Capello.

The Papua New Guinea side probably have a few more valid excuses than the England boy’s. They do, however, have a population of 5.4 million people more than some nations in this year’s World Cup. Their national sport is supposedly Rugby and in spite of that it is nowhere near as popular as football. Football has actually had a huge boom in recent years and no other sport enjoys such a huge following in New Guinea. With the status of the worst team in the world you could be forgiven for thinking that they are not interested in football, that no effort is put into developing the youth of tomorrow. They have already started ‘The Goal’ project as of 2006 and are currently implementing the second stage which will see the upgrading of the already constructed national football academy in Lae. A technical centre, the first of its kind in the region, will also be built in Kimbe to focus on grooming young players through structured development programmes. The association also expects these two centres to provide administrative support.

A small national soccer league is also in operation containing 7 sides. The flagship team of this is Henkari United, who have become the first team outside of Australia or New Zealand to take home the O-League title. This has given the PNG football status a huge boost within that region at least. The Triumph will also have world ramifications for Hankari as they have become the first Pacific Island side to reach the FIFA Club World Championships, in what could see them face the world’s elite. Vonnie Eteaki Kapi-Natto, Hekari general manager said ‘’I never dreamed to come this far. We’ve been working for it but I never thought we would come to this’’. The dramatic win was further accentuated as they only came into existence seven years ago. It will be great to see a side from such a humble football background pit themselves against the rest of the world in Abu Dhabi next month. It will give the game it the country a huge lift and hopefully improve the standard to eventually move them up in the footballing world.

I think a few people would love to see them embarrass Rafa Benitez and Inter.

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