PNG women grateful to be in Monaco after long 7-way trip
The seven-a-side Papua New Guinea women’s team are relieved to be in Monaco after a difficult journey to the final Olympic qualifying tournament.
Palais have not played competitively since the Oceania Sevens in Fiji at the end of 2019 and have spent more than a year training alone in PNG, with head coach Paul Tietjens stranded in New Zealand.
The team were due to fly out of Port Moresby last week, but interim coach Rob Jones said there was a late hiccup when one of their 12 players failed the pre-start test for Covid -19 and had to be left behind.
âThey need to be tested at the airport but I think it was a false positive so I think she was fine which is a shame for her,â he said.
“The whole team was supposed to leave on Thursday, but they had to go home, then World Rugby booked another flight for Saturday, so it was touching and leaving on Friday night whether or not we came to be honest,” he said. he declares.
Jones himself is based in New Zealand and had to face a mad rush to get to the airport on time.
“I think I found out at half past one on Saturday morning that I had to leave at 10 am to get to Wellington to catch a flight to Auckland.”
The PNG team finally arrived in Monaco on Sunday evening and headed straight to their hotel.
After passing another Covid-19 test, the team finally had their first training session on Tuesday. Captain Kymlie Rapilla admitted it had been tough preparation.
âIt was not easy, it was difficult with the lockdown,â she said.
âBecause we haven’t had a lot of playing time since Oceania Sevens. Due to the lockdown, our competitions in Port Moresby have also been closed so far so we haven’t had a lot of playing time. “
The PNG team will undergo another Covid-19 PCR test on Thursday morning local time before returning to the training ground, while strict Covid-19 protocols are in place across the principality.
âWe have to wear masks everywhere and we can only take off the mask for eating and drinking and we have time allotted for food so we’re in, we’re out and we don’t mix with other teams,â Jones explained.
Despite the restrictions, the 10 men’s and 12 women’s teams are expected to play in front of socially distanced supporters.
âI think they’re looking to open around 8,000 seats. It’s a 17,000 seat and they’re looking to fill half of it, they hope. But obviously Monaco is a big football pitch, not rugby, so they I don’t know what they’re going to get. “
While the trip to Monaco has been difficult, Kymlie Rapilla said the 11 players from the Palace were eager to take the pitch on Saturday and compete for a berth at the Tokyo Games.
“Our first game is against Tunisia. We know we will struggle, knowing we haven’t had a lot of playing time, but our goal is to only have one game at a time.”
PNG will also face Jamaica and Kazakhstan in Pool B, with the top two teams advancing to the quarter-finals.
The Samoa women’s team is in Pool A, alongside Russia, Argentina and Mexico, with two places up for grabs in Tokyo.
âWe have 11 girls who know the sacrifices that were made to bring the team there,â Jones explained.
“Although we haven’t seen them for a year, they are ready to go, they are excited, they are passionate and privileged to play for their country and they are looking forward to the opportunity to play soccer at the end of the day. week.”