Laloata makes cut for Champions League football
Vito Laloata is in Hekari United’s Oceania Champions League squad for the Papua New Guinean club’s group stage games next week.
The 23-year-old Samoan international made the final 25-man squad as one of four import players, with he and Brazilians Erick Joe Ribeiro and Vinicius Reis Kryzozun, and Solomon Islander Junior David making the cut ahead of Solomon Islands international Robert Laua.
Laloata joined partway through Hekari’s season, but is being heralded as ‘the Samoan Gem’ by local fans after just three games.
He scored their opening goal in last weekend’s domestic league win, having made an assist off the bench in his two previous appearances.
Laloata was recruited by Hekari due to his form at last July’s Pacific Games, where he scored all three of Samoa’s goals, including one against regional heavyweights New Zealand.
“I am proud and thankful for receiving this opportunity,” he told Oceania Football Center after his Hekari debut.
“It is a way to increase my skills and develop my talent […] There are many Samoan players looking for this kind of opportunity.
“My desire is to always have a chance to play by putting all the energy into the game for the sake of the club and providing a good place to host my beloved country Samoa.”
Hekari United enter the 2020 Champions League group stage undefeated in Papua New Guinea’s national league, although their Group A matchups from the 16th to the 22nd of February ought provide more challenging competition.
Their first game is against New Zealand national champions Eastern Suburbs, followed by matches against Vanuatu’s Galaxy FC and the 2019 Champions League winners Hienghène Sport of New Caledonia.
Hekari do have home advantage over their opponents though – all Group A fixtures will be played at PNG Football Stadium.
Laloata’s Samoan club Lupe o le Soaga are in Group D of the competition, with their games to be played from the 1st to the 7th of March in Tahiti.