Veteran brings experience to Lupe's midfield
At 37 years old, Nigerian midfielder, Kenneth Kerewi, is the elder statesman in Lupe o le Soaga’s team for the Oceania Champions League qualifying stage.
He’s the oldest player in the team, and is even older than more than half of the club’s management staff.
But for Kerewi playing in a team with a median age of 23 is a blast.
“For me it’s a great opportunity to play with a young team like this… you have pace you have power you have agility,” the man from Vaipuna said.
“I always tell them, I was once like them, for some of them it’s going to be their first game ever in this kind of tournament. I always tell them be relaxed. The important thing is you’re a player, feel like a professional and play confidently.”
Kerewi will wear the number eight jersey at the tournament in New Zealand, befitting his box-to-box playstyle.
He considers his strengths to be tackling and keeping play moving, but said he is also able to join in the attack where necessary.
The 2020 Champions League will be Kerewi’s fourth since coming to Samoa in 2016.
Having played professionally and semi-professionally in Nigeria, Ghana and Bhutan, he came to the South Pacific to fulfil his dream of playing in a continental Champions League competition.
Kerewi did so with American Samoa’s Utelei Youth in 2017, and Samoan clubs Lupe o le Soaga and Kiwi FC in 2018 and 2019.
“The team is going to represent Samoa, so we have a lot on our shoulders,” he said of Lupe’s 2020 campaign.
“But we’re not pressured, we’re happy to represent, and it’s a privilege for us to be selected to represent the Magiagi village and Samoa as a whole.”
Kerewi said the team have something to prove, given Samoan clubs usually bow out before the Champions League knockout rounds:
“We wanna cross where we always stop at, we wanna get further.”
And he said Samoa’s performances at the 2019 Pacific Games (including a silver medal for the women’s team) show that anything is possible.
“All Samoan supporters, I know Samoa is a rugby nation, but soccer is moving, soccer is gradually moving,” he said.
“We want everyone’s support out there, because not only Samoans, people from all over the world are going to watch this team.”
Lupe o le Soaga play their first match against Tonga’s Veitongo on the 25th of January, before facing the Cook Island’s Tupapa Maraerenga on the 28th.