Solomon Islander Michael Fifi’i is thrilled to be back in his homeland, with his return coming courtesy of Samoan outfit Lupe Ole Soaga who will feature in Group D of the OFC Champions League this weekend.
It will be the midfielder’s first time playing on home soil since 2005, a 12 year wait that has been a long-time coming, he said.
“To me it means a lot and probably means everything in football to be coming home to play in front of my own people,” Fifi’i said.
“The OFC Champions League is giving me another opportunity to play in front of my people after 12 long years.
“It’s a special homecoming for me not just as a Solomon Islander, but as a footballer.”
Fifi’i recalls what it was like in 2005 and said it’s an experience not easily forgotten.
“The last time I played here was national U-20s back in 2005. The stadium was packed, we had about 35,000 and I think as a player you have a lot of pressure coming from the fans and personally for me, coming back and playing in front of people I think there’s a lot of expectations.
“People in the Solomon Islands can be very critical when it comes to football so as a player playing in front of this crowd and these people I have to keep calm and just do the basic things right.”
Fifi’i and his teammates have hit the ground running with trainings at SIFF Academy and DC Park since their arrival on Tuesday.
Having come through the Qualifier, he knows that his side are very much underdogs but believes they can turn heads.
“I can’t wait to walk out onto the Lawson Tama pitch, but as a team our boys are looking forward to it.
“These boys are talented and Solomon Islands will be shocked to see the young generation of Samoans come February 25th when we play our first match,” he predicted.
Lupe Ole Soaga coach Paul Ualesi stressed that Fifi’i is an important member of the squad.
“For now Fifi’i is no longer a Solomon Islander, he is a Samoan now,” Ualesi laughed.
“Our brother Fifi’i is one of the most experienced and a really good character for the team.
“I think it is good for the boys to learn from him both on and off the pitch, and I think many locals will support our team because of Fifi’i.”
The OFC Champions League 2018 Qualifier runners-up Lupe Ole Soaga open their Group Stage campaign against 2017 semi-finalists AS Magenta at 1pm (local) at Lawson Tama Stadium.