Wau Kik was popular sport with few rules and those who witnessed or took part related anecdotes of players who were feared and respected because of their viciousness at the prime strategy of kicking the bare legs and feet of opponents
DAGUA - Football or soccer is a popular sport in Papua New Guinea, said by the PNG Football Association to have been introduced by German Lutheran missionaries in Morobe Province in 1884.
The first record of an organised local football competition was on the goldfields of Wau and Bulolo in that province.
The participants were indigenous goldminers mainly from northern PNG who worked the gold-rich region from the 1920s to the 1950s.
The competition was called Wau Kik, also referred to as Wau-Bulolo Kik or 1946 Kik.
The Wau Kik style involved plenty of rough play, foul kicks, pushing and shoving while kicking at opponents’ legs when contesting the ball.
Players were barefoot (and no shin pads) and attacked and defended by swipe-kicking the legs of opponents when playing at the ball.
To wrest the ball, an attacker or defender had to be prepared to kick the opponent or be kicked.
Sometimes there were one-on-one challenges to gain possession of the ball.
There were no foul rules and the rough and tumble was accepted as part of the contest of Wau Kik.
The brutal and rough play frequently led to fights amongst players and supporters.
It was popular sport and those who witnessed or took part related anecdotes of players who were feared and respected because of the viciousness of their kicking at the legs of opponents.
As a result, Wau Kik resulted in injuries to players - mainly bruised legs, sprained ankles and dislocated toes.
A few were left with scars and even permanent injuries as a result of their exploits in this rough version of the modern game.
Nowadays, the Wau Kik football game seems shocking and deplorable with its unconventional rough play but it was a popular sport in its time and another part of PNG's colourful football history.