Written by Pat McGuiness.
The long-awaited friendly between West Papua and Raetia, which was postponed twice because of the Corona virus crisis, finally took place at Quick Den Haag's Sportpark de Hanenberg in The Hague on 13 November last. It was the visitors' first game for some time, but West Papua came into this match on the back of a 5:5 draw against TikTok United, a team of social media influencers who they played almost two weeks earlier in a benefit match for West Papuan children who are living in refugee camps along the border with Papua New Guinea.
The West Papuans had the better of the first twenty minutes of their duel with the Swiss team, meanwhile, but missed two or three good chances to go ahead through, amongst others, Ballassai. Although the Tjernderawasih controlled matters, the Raetians kept countering but they always just seemed to misdirect the final pass.
The hosts kept creating chances, and Hato sent a shot from distance wide just after the half-hour before Santos latched on to a clever back-heel from a team-mate and shot from six yards out, but Raetia 'keeper Bjorn Hasselmann got down to save at his near post. West Papua kept up the pressure as the half drew to a close, and Rink found himself in a good position at the edge of the six-yard box to trap and connect with a ball sent over from the left, but he snatched at the ball and half-volleyed it wide. Not long after, Ballassai worked himself into a good position on the edge of the box before feinting and sending in a low shot which Bjorn did well to save.
It was a good first half for West Papua against a determined Raetia side, but there was a certain amount of frustration at the break due to their missing a number of good chances, and it was to continue into the second half. as Tatem was superbly put through by Ballassai, only for him to shoot straight at the 'keeper.
That rarety of thing, a shot in anger from Raetia, came from Christian Perren after 52 minutes as his team went on the counter; instead of seeking out a team-mate, he decided to let fly from nearly 30 yards out. His dipping shot beat Tycho van der Woning, but rattled the top of the crossbar and flew over for a goal-kick.
West Papua kept up their search for a goal, and it almost came just after the hour mark when Tatem went a-marauding and found Ballassai, who ran on and tried to round Bjorn and shot, but the Raetian keeper got back, down and saved well.
The goal West Papua had been looking for came after 65 minutes, and no-one could say that it was undeserved. Ballassai ran through the Raetia defence and his shot from 15 yards swerved viciously and sent Hasselmann the wrong way as it flew into the back of the net. It spurred them on further, and a free-kick with twenty minutes left flew low and just wide of Bjorn's right-hand post. Not much later, Maliba ran into a packed penalty-area to get on the end of a corner, but was only able to prod the ball a yard wide of the post.
Raetia came more into the game as it entered its final stages, and Wüthrich had an effort saved by van der Woning with twelve minutes left. Seconds later, Bakiu ran through a gap in the home defence as wide as the North Sea to score, only to be wrongly adjudged to have been in an offside position by a linesman who was at least a yard ahead of the last man in defence. Down the other end, Ballassai missed another good chance to make the game safe before the action swung back up to in front of the West Papua goal, when an inviting cross just missed a clutch of Raetian players on the attack.
In their last game against TikTok United, West Papua were denied a victory when their opponents equalised in the dying seconds, and it happened again this time, too; with the sun slowly sinking into the trees behind the ground, a corner from the left-hand side landed in the West Papua six-yard box. A scramble ensued before Wüthrich prodded the ball forward from a couple of yards out and it squirmed agonisingly under van der Woning and just over the line.
The West Papua players were left wondering just how victory had evaded them for the second time in less than a fortnight. After the match, manager Garry Ilina bemoaned the lack of team-play from his charges, whilst Raetian manager Simone Fontana praised his team for not letting their heads drop. Despite Ilina's disappointment, there was much for West Papua's manager to be positive about. West Papua played well, especially in defence, they looked potent in attack and created plenty of chances. There were positives for Raetia, too; Hasselmann was inspired in goal, the defence held firm for most of the match and, as Fontana said, the team as a whole kept going right until the end. Plans are being made for a return fixture between the sides in Switzerland later this year, most probably in August. It could be a game to look forward to, as West Papua will feel aggrieved that they didn't get the win they felt they deserved, and Raetia, buoyed by their performance in this game, will look for a rare win on home soil.
WEST PAPUA: 1 T. VAN DER WONING; 2 T. CECILIA, 3 S. QUIAVUAZOA, 4 S. RINK, 5 J. VREDE, 6 S. HATO, 7 F. YAMA, 8 M. GAJADHAR, 9 C. MALIBA, 10 C. BALLASSAI, 11 E. KWALAKITA
SUBSTITUTES: 12 D. TATEM, 13 J. SANTOS
NOTE: West Papua used rolling substitutions.
RAETIA: 1 Björn HASSELMANN; 2 Paolo BOTTONI (15 Ardian BAKIU), 3 Lukas SCHMIDT, 4 Franco CONZETT, 5 Corsin SCHUMACHER, 6 Sebastian DODEN, 7 Christian PERREN (2 BOTTONI; 18 Jakob ENGELBERGER), 9 David BAJIC (16 Dario WÜTHRICH), 10 Luca GOOD, 11 Raphael URBEN, 14 Phillip BRASSER
SUBSTITUTES: All four substitutes were used.