Dan Coker's Match Preview
FC Lusitans, also known as Lusitanos, were founded in 1999 – the year when West Ham United last had to start their season in July. After immediately winning promotion to the top flight and following finishes ranging from 3rd to 6th in their first 12 years of existence, Lusitans won their first Primera Divisio championship in the 2011/12 season and retained their title the following year. They then slumped to 4th in 2014 before rising again to finish as runners-up just a few months ago.
The club’s name, crest and kit reflect their Portuguese heritage – their chairman, Antonio da Silva Cerqueira, is Portuguese as are numerous members of the playing squad. The supporters, known as Lusitanos or Lusos, are mainly Portuguese immigrants in Andorra or Andorran people of Portuguese heritage. The team’s kit manufacturer is the Portuguese brand Peba. However their manager, Jordi Roura, is Andorran.
Lusitans played their first European matches in the Europa League in 2010, where they were eliminated 11-0 on aggregate by Macedonian club Rabotnicki. In the following season’s tournament, they were beaten at the same stage by Croatian side Varazdin, 6-1 on aggregate. The club also appeared in the Champions League in 2012, again falling at the first hurdle as they were defeated 9-0 on aggregate by Maltese outfit Valletta. The Champions League beckoned again the following season and Lusitans were drawn to play EB/Streymur of the Faroe Islands; they drew 2–2 in the first leg at home despite leading 2–0 and missing a penalty to go 3–0 up. They lost 5–1 away in the second leg, and were knocked out 7–3 on aggregate.
One of Lusitans’ most notable players is 34-year-old Spanish right-back/midfielder Edu Moya, who should wear number 6. After starting his career with Extremadura, he played 100 games for Tenerife in a four-year spell between 2002 and 2006. After short spells with fellow Spanish clubs Mallorca, Recreativo, Celta Vigo, Hercules and Xerez, Moya moved to Norway in 2012 to spend a season with Fyllingsdalen before a similar year-long stint in Bolivia with Club Bolivar. He joined Lusitans in 2014.
Oscar Sonejee, who will wear number 4, is in his second spell with Lusitans – he first played for the club in the 2012/13 season and returned last year after a brief stint back with FC Andorra, with whom he has had four spells. The 39-year-old (pictured in a 2007 altercation with Wayne Rooney) made his international debut for Andorra in 1997 and is his nation’s most-capped player with 101 caps, the most recent being earnt just last month. He is Andorra’s second-highest goalscorer with four goals and can play in midfield or defence. Sonejee works as an insurance salesman.
Alfi Conteh-Lacalle is a 30-year-old forward who will wear number 7. Born in Barcelona, he played for the Catalan club’s C and B sides before moving to Gava. He has since had spells in Greece with Kavala and in Hungary with Nyiregyhaza Spartacus and Honved before returning to Spain with Terrassa. Conteh-Lacalle has Sierra Leonean heritage and had a brief spell in the West African country with Kallon before joining Lusitans last year. He played for Spain’s Under-19 side but has won a full international cap with Sierra Leone.
Thursday’s officials are from Latvia, with the referee being 34-year-old Vadims Direktorenko; perhaps his most notable appointment came in Dublin when he was the man in the middle for Ireland’s 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Kazakhstan in October 2013. Direktorenko averaged four yellow cards per game last season.
Academy Director Terry Westley will take charge of the Hammers while Slaven Bilic will be in the stands after flying back from the first-team’s Cork training camp. Westley has taken the unusual step of publicly naming his team in advance – Darren Randolph is the only player who has been added to the club’s original squad list submitted on June 22nd, meaning Dimitri Payet and Stephen Hendrie will play no part in either the first or second leg of this first qualifying round. Randolph will start in goal and should become the first Hammers’ custodian to wear the number 1 jersey since Rob Green in 2012. James Tomkins will captain the side while Lewis Page will make his debut at left-back. Reece Oxford also makes his maiden start for the first-team, possibly in a holding midfield role alongside Diego Poyet. Meanwhile, Doneil Henry has been named in the squad submitted to UEFA – if deemed fit enough, he could claim a place on the bench.
Lusitans are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with the aforementioned Moya and Sonejee in defence and Conteh-Lacalle leading the line.
West Ham United XI: Randolph; O’Brien, Burke, Tomkins, Page; Oxford, Poyet; Amalfitano, Zarate, Jarvis; Sakho.
Possible Lusitans XI: Gerardo; Moya, Maciel, Sonejee, Acosta; Molina, Pinto; Soares, dos Reis, Aguilar; Conteh-Lacalle.
Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!