American wantoks rally behind PNG women’s U20 team

Many within the American wantok community came out to support the U20 PNG women's soccer team when they took to the field in their final match against the Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

The match, this past weekend, occurred at the historic and prestigious Georgetown University. It completed Team PNG’s tour of the United States.

American minister, Rev. Stephen Michael Leach, whose ministry (SML Ministries) is widely followed within Papua New Guinea, His Excellency, the PNG Ambassador to the US, Rupa Mulina, businessman Mathew Wari, acclaimed photographer Patrick Leahy, and many other US-based wantoks, including some from as far away as the US state of Michigan (some 600+ miles away from DC), came to the field to show support.

The young Papua New Guinean sportswomen made a lasting impression on the hearts of not only all the spectators gathered in the crowd but also those of their American competitors.

At the end of the game, after lining up to acknowledge the opposing team, the U20 PNG players did a spontaneous presentation of traditional dancing and singing in various PNG languages, complete with the accompanying sound of a handcrafted kundu drum from Papua New Guinea.

This hauntingly beautiful and soulful display of Papua New Guinean culture absolutely delighted and fascinated the American players and crowd, which stood transfixed in amazement and brought tears of joy to the eyes of many of the 'homesick' US based Papua New Guineans present.

Rev. Leach shared on social media about the game and his meeting the team, saying: "It was my privilege to be able to extend my support to the U20 PNG women's soccer team here in my hometown of Washington, DC.

“These young wantok women from across the nation I hold beloved represent the hopes of us all who pray for a more perfect Papua New Guinea!"

Rev. Leach also shared that while at a dinner farewelling the team in DC, he had asked some of the young ladies what their favorite memory of their USA tour was.

"I expected them to say something about all the big American cities they had seen, the modern infrastructure, unlimited free Wifi, massive shopping malls, Starbucks, McDonald's, etc... but then one girl spoke up on behalf of the group and told me, 'This moment will be our favorite memory of America, simply being here eating with all you wantoks and our American friends, pasin em i bikpla samtin tru... we worked really hard with our training and learned a lot... and just being with our USA wantoks who love and support us, that's been one of the best parts of this whole trip'.”

Lisa Cole, the head coach of the PNG team, who is widely respected on the international sporting stage, summed the experience up on social media saying: "This has been [such] an amazing trip. I am really proud of this team.

“It isn't just about results out on the field but also about the [empowered] people these young women are becoming and what is possible if we will support them."

(Pictures by Patrick Leahy)

Press release