Diya Cook Islands Engagement
Cook Islands may be one of FIFA’s smallest member associations with a mere 15,000 inhabitants, but it has an impressive track record of development programmes in a variety of areas including junior, youth, women’s, coaching and refereeing. Running these programmes is often a challenge for the Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) due to the sheer distance between the islands which cover an area the size of Western Europe. Despite the geographical obstacles, CIFA regularly holds competitions on a national scale including club leagues, knockout cups and five-a-side tournaments for men and women.
The annual youth championship is also one of the more important dates on the calendar. The best of these youth players are trained at the well-equipped national football academy in Matevera where Cook Islands national teams also assemble before embarking for OFC and FIFA qualifying tournaments.
CIFA celebrated the inauguration of its ‘Home of Football’ at Matavera in 2009 to mark the completion of all three phases of the FIFA Goal Programme. Seven years in the making, the CIFA headquarters now includes an all-purpose complex for players, officials, media and spectators as well as international-standard playing facilities and administration offices. President Lee Harmon has managed the project and is committed to helping young Cook Islanders achieve their full potential at national and international levels at this ‘Field of Dreams’.
In May 2013 OFC President David Chung travelled to Aitutaki for the inauguration of the Aitutaki FA Headquarters and Education Centre. The FIFA Goal Project provides a focal point for education coaches, referees, players and administrators and becomes the first office facility for any sporting code on the island.
In a partnership with the Cook Islands FA, we would be looking to run camps and programs on both Raratonga and Aitutaki to help with the development of players there and hopefully, we will see some of the players from the Cook Islands in the academy in Auckland getting the expert residency based training to develop the Cook Islands.
It should also be noted that we are not interested in turning these players from the Cook Islands and getting them playing for New Zealand. We want to see Oceania develop as a Confederation which for us means, seeing New Zealand challenged on the pitch by the other nations in the Confederation.
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