Female coach sets bar in soccer

She is breaking barriers in PNG’s soccer scene.

Margaret Aka, from West New Britain Province, is setting the bar for women and girls who are passionate about soccer.

The former international is the first woman in PNG to receive an OFC B Licence. She is also the first woman to coach a soccer team in the 2018 National Soccer League.

So what drove this dynamic but humble woman to greater heights?

“What drives me the most is helping kids to realise their full potential not only in football but life in general,” Aka told Loop PNG.

“I watched a lot of football on TV and I noticed that a lot of professional players come from world over, mainly Europe, Africa, South America and maybe a handful from Asia.

“Most countries in these regions are developing countries like PNG. They invested in kids, football in this case, and have produced superstars.

“It is not impossible. We are just beginning to realise how much potential we have in sports and I hope we can start thinking about the future and invest well in our children.”

The 42-year-old started off her career in 1992, playing for the Sogeri National High School in the Port Moresby Soccer Association competition.

“The team was pooled in the Women's Division 2 competition,” reminisced Aka.

“In that year we won the grand final under coach Michael Woodlock, who was a teacher at Sogeri National High.

“I then joined Telikom Soccer Club in 1995 - 2006 under coach Francis Moyap. Between 2006 and 2008, I played for Gap Football Club in Brisbane in the Women's Premier League while I was on an AUSAID scholarship.

“I took up coaching in 2013 as a volunteer coach and here I am at PNG Football Association, since 2014.”

Apart from completing her OFC B Licence last August, Aka has an impressive list of achievements under her belt, including coaching the PNG U14 girls where they competed at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China.

She also coached the U17 girls to the Oceania Football Confederation qualifier in Cook Islands (2016).

In the domestic competition, Aka coached the Erima Flyover Men's Division 2 team in PMSA competition, where they went on to win the grand final last year.

“I am now attached to Southern Strikers for 2018 NSL season,” says Aka.

It has not been – and will never be – smooth sailing for a woman who sets out to conquer a male-dominated arena.

Therefore how did this humble, soft-spoken woman leap over the societal and cultural barriers?

It’s all about trust!

“You have to earn the trust, confidence and respect of players in what you do and what you say as a coach,” Aka told Loop PNG.

“You have to make sense and be logical.

“I try to be positive all the time and that helps to keep me aware of the challenges I am faced with.”

Coach Aka’s encouragement to passionate female footballers is: “Your willingness to sacrifice and commitment can help you to become who/what you want to be.”

(Picture: PNG National Soccer League Facebook page)

Carmella Gware