Words: ACFC Media
Thursday 30 June 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Flexibility is key for Albert Riera as he and his team await the outcome of the draw for the OFC Champions League later today.
It's been over two years since the OFC Champions League 2020 was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
A period that also saw Auckland City FC nominated to compete at two FIFA Club World Cup tournaments in Qatar and the UAE only for the club to withdraw due to the travel restrictions and complexities of the MIQ.
This year's edition of the OFC Champions League pits eight clubs from around Oceania against each other in two groups of four with the top two in each section advancing to a one off semi-final and final.
It is thought the winner of the OFC Champions League will then represent Oceania at the next FIFA Club World Cup rumoured to be scheduled in February or March of 2023.
Since the last OFC Champions League took place, much has changed in New Zealand football's top tier architecture with the scrapping of the New Zealand Football Championship and the introduction of the National League System.
With Auckland City FC deep into a 22-game Northern League season and in the last 16 of the Chatham Cup, New Zealand Football alongside Northern Regional Football, have moved to reschedule a raft of the club's games to help accommodate the OFC Champions League.
The OFC Champions League is thought to be scheduled for August 8-19, 2022, in New Zealand, but at specifically which venues remains to be seen.
"The OFC Champions League is an extremely important tournament for the club and for the team. I have very good and very fond memories of it as a player, so I am very happy to be part of it now as a coach.
"Our team and our club have managed to win it many times and I know first hand its very hard. A lot of people think because we've won it many times that its easy.
"This is a misunderstanding. Every game is this tournament is very, very hard, especially against clubs from the islands against very strong teams with technically gifted players who can be very tricky in one on ones.
"It can be very hard and I've experienced it but again while we are all excited, the reality is we have a lot of games beforehand that are very important as well.
"We'll keep an eye on developments, check today's draw and then act accordingly and start preparing for it," he said.
Riera, who is still unbeaten in his first 17 games in charge of Auckland City FC, is wary of losing focus or being distracted by the uncertainty of fixture changes but has adopted a practical, pragmatic and feet on the ground approach to what lies ahead.
"The reality about the uncertainty ahead is something I am completely aware of, and we all are in the team and club.
"If we don't have any control over certain things I believe worrying about them is in vain. We can only control what we can control.
"We have to be flexible and we have to adjust to the situation as it happens. I am sure the people who are in control of making such decisions will take those decisions in a way that benefits the sport and football.
"I am sure they will apply common sense and the right decisions will be taken about the details.
"For us, we'll adapt, we'll be flexible and we won't waste energy worrying about things out of our control and, hopefully, we can keep going the way we are going," Riera said.
The OFC Champions League draw takes place at 1pm NZDT today - for full details and the live draw visit the OFC website here.
OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2022 - NATIONAL PLAYOFFS
NEW CALEDONIA PLAYOFF
4 June 2022
Ne Drehu 2-2 Hienghene Sport
6 June 2022
Hienghene Sport 2-1 Ne Drehu
*Hienghene Sport win 4-3 on aggregate
14 June 2022
AS Pirae 0-1 AS Venus
*AS Venus win 1-0
17 June 2022
Lautoka 1-1 Rewa
19 June 2022
Rewa 4-0 Lautoka
Rewa won 5-1 on aggregate
18 June 2022
RueRue 0-0 Galaxy
25 June 2022
Galaxy 5-0 RueRue
*Galaxy won 5-0 on aggregate
SOLOMON ISLANDS PLAYOFF
19 June 2022
Solomon Warriors 1-1 Central Coast
25 June 2022
Central Coast 2-2 Solomon Warriors*
*Central Coast won 4-2 on penalties
PAPUA NEW GUINEA PLAYOFF
June 25 2022
Lae City 2-1 Hekari United
DEVELOPING ASSOCIATIONS (American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga)
Nikao Sokattak (Cook Islands) received a bye to Group Stage.
Auckland City FC qualify as New Zealand Football Championship Premiers 2020-21
Auckland City FC (New Zealand)
Nikao Sokattak (Cook Islands)
Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia)
AS Venus (Tahiti)
Central Coast (Solomon Islands)
Lae City (Papua New Guinea)
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC