Cook Islands: five years without competitive football

The lack of competition has been a problem for most Oceania national football teams for several years; the Cook Islands are at the top of the list when it comes to the inactivity of their men’s senior national team – without proper exposure, football can not develop anywhere.

The last time Cook Islands national team played an official football match was in September 4th, 2015 – almost five years ago – against American Samoa, in a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat at 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification. In this same competition, the Cook Islanders played against Tonga and Samoa, winning both matches by 3-0 and 1-0 respectively. Taylor Saghabi is the man responsible for scoring the last goal of Cook Island at international stage – the Australian-based player also scored all other three goals of his national team in that competition.

OFC Media

It is known that the Cook Islands national team has made a trip to New Zealand in 2019 to play a few friendly matches against local clubs. The local media or the Cook Islands Football Association did not disclose exactly which teams the Cook Islands were playing against, but the Oceania Football Center is aware that Manukau United and Bucklands Beach AFC were opponents to the national team in two friendly matches. Unfortunately, the results of all matches were not published.

Unlike the men’s national team, the Cook Islands women’s team played in Samoa for the last edition of the Pacific Games in 2019 and had a fantastic campaign, finishing 4th after a 3-1 defeat in the bronze medal game against Fiji. During the competition, the Cook Islands beat Tahiti, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu before losing 5-1 to Papua New Guinea in one of the semi-finals. CIFA made a huge effort to recruit Dutch coach Judith Kuipers as head coach for the women’s national team.

See More:
Maro Bonsu-Maro: Cook Islands national team is still a possibility;
Cook Islander Lee Harmon joins Ellerslie AFC.

Unfortunately for football in Oceania, the lack of official matches and friendly matches for most OFC national teams is a chronic problem: the same Cook Islands, for example, only played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers before the same qualifying tournament for the 2018 FIFA World Cup – a gap of almost four years without an official match for the men’s national team. The drought of football matches might be close to an end for Cook Islands as the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifirs will be starting this year as it is scheduled by OFC.

In order to continue the development process of football in the Pacific, it is very important that the local football associations cooperate with the football confederation and FIFA. The lack of support that most of these local associations receive from the major football organizations could be a real problem, but this is not only a financial issue: workshops, training and know-how are a very important part of the change process of this disappointing lack of competitiveness scenario.

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