Gimale Essacu picked to play for U-23 Papua New Guinea National Team

Gimale Essacu gets called up to play for his U-23 National Team.


Gimale Essacu gets called up to play for his U-23 National Team.

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

Gimale Essacu, a senior from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, received the call that every kid soccer player dreams of. He was called up to play for his country’s U-23 team in the 2019 OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Fiji. This isn’t his first time being called up either.

“This is my second Olympic qualifiers campaign, and I’m a lot older and a little wiser this time around, especially training every day here at Western,” Essacu said in an interview with WIU Athletics Communications.

He played for his country in a 2015 Olympic Qualifier and advanced to the semi-finals. Of course if his country wins this tournament, they will automatically qualify to play at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Japan.

Papua New Guinea is in Group B with last tournaments winners, Fiji, along with Vanuatu and Tonga. Vanuatu was runners up in 2015 while Tonga has never made it out of the group stage.

Essacu is one of only two players on the 20-man squad that currently plays in the United States. He obviously plays at Western while the other player, Felix Komolong from Lae, Papua New Guinea, plays for Northern Kentucky University.

Essacu transferred to Western from Otero Junior College his junior year. He was named All Region IX in 2016 (his freshman year) when he scored five goals and assisted another five. His sophomore year at OJC he scored 10 goals with eight assists and led his team to a Region IX Championship. He was once again named First team All-Region IX and First Team All-West District.

Last year, his first as a Leatherneck, he started six games and recorded 398 minutes, taking 13 shots (five SOG). This season, he has logged 241 minutes over a five-game span but remains without a goal.

In pre-season, he assisted the game-winner against the University of Illinois-Springfield and scored the game-winner against Quincy in a 2-1 victory. He knows what he’s doing out there and he completely deserves the opportunity to play for his country.

The tournament runs from Sept. 21 to Oct. 5. All games will be played at ANZ National Stadium in Suva, Fiji. In that span Essacu will miss five games for Western, including a Summit League matchup against Omaha. He should return in time to play Denver at home on Oct. 12.