Cooks consider long-term goals

That project is creating more domestically developed players from which to build the foundations of Cook Islands’ national teams in the future.
The coaching staff for Cook Islands, led by Richard Anderson, have made this tournament the starting point for this project bringing a 100 per cent homegrown side to compete at the 2016 OFC U-17 Championship Preliminary.
“It’s important for us as an association to use opportunities like this to ensure that our boys are getting valuable international exposure against other international teams,” Anderson says.
“All the players that we’ve got are domestic-based platers and we felt it was important for this tournaemtn taht we do that.”
He says the experience with the senior national team, with whom he was assistant coach during their bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, was an eye-opener in respect to the player-base available to Cook Islands.
“For the men’s national team we only had six out of our 18 players who were domestic-based and there’s a strong belief for our association to grow and to become a player in this region, we need to develop more homegrown talent.
“Tournaments like this one are really important for us, we’ve got boys who are as young as 14-15 years old who are gaining international experience.
“By the time they reach senior level they will have those international experiences under their belts and hopefully that will bode well for the Cook Islands in future major tournaments.”
While the long-term development remains on the cards, Anderson is also focused on the matches this week.
Given the time the team has spent together Anderson is confident the bond is strong and they side is ready to challenge for that final spot in Tahiti next year.
“The boys have been together now for about a year and we’ve added a couple more over the course of the year through scouting,” he says.
“The bond they have is incredible and probably the best that I’ve experienced with any team I’ve worked with. And they get on well with the coaching staff as well.
“I would say, and hopfully it shows on the pitch, the coaching staff is prepared to do anything for these boys, and the boys are prepared to fight for each other, work for each other and work for the coaching staff.
“I could not fault at all the cohesion in this squad.”
The Cook Islands will open their OFC U-17 Championship Preliminary campaign against Tonga at 4.30pm this afternoon at J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Samoa.

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