OFC RELEASE/RAROTONGA – A spectacular ground breaking ceremony was held yesterday at Matavera celebrating the commencement of construction on the FIFA Goal Project for the Cook Islands.
It was another big step in the development of football on the small island nation of just over 14,000 inhabitants. An array of dignitaries turned out amongst the throe of officials and special guests that joined the Cook Islands Football Association and local soccer fraternity for its most momentous occasion since becoming members of FIFA.
The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Hon. Dr Robert Woonton, partook in the official ground-breaking, driving a small digger and shovelling out the first layer of dirt symbolising the commencement of construction. The last of the clearing and pegging will now take place before the main construction phase gets underway. According to FIFA Development Officer, Glenn Turner, if everything goes to schedule, the National Football Academy and two international standard playing pitches should be ready by Christmas and launched officially sometime in the New Year.
At the ceremony proper, speeches were made by Hon Woonten, Mr Turner, the Oceania Football Confederation Senior Vice President, Tautulu Roebeck of Samoa who made an address on behalf of the OFC, Cook Islands Football Association President, Lee Harmon and Mrs Akaiti Ama representing the Land Owners. Also present at the ceremony was the Queens Representative, His Excellency, Fredrick Goodwin. Providing the benediction and blessing was Reverend Teiho Maireriki, while the hymns were beautifully sung by members of the Matavera Catholic Church.
An ecstatic CIFA President, Lee Harmon, described the events today as “historic” and “a significant advance for the development of soccer in the Cook Islands.” He was also thankful to FIFA for their initiative in setting up the Goal Programme.
Now that everything is underway, we’re obviously delighted and at the same time very excited about the future of the game here,” he remarked.
It was a proud occasion after waiting nearly two years to get started. The National Academy will have a huge impact here as it’s the first of its kind in the Cook Islands and no doubt the profile of the game will lift for sure because of it.
The proposed National Academy when completed will become a hub for football development. The CIFA will relocate to new offices within the Academy in Matavera. The Academy will include two international standard pitches, one of which will be sand carpeted with underground irrigation, fully drained. Facilities will include an administration office for the CIFA, an education centre for seminars and conferences, a national training centre and accommodation quarters capable of hosting up to 30 players and officials.
Photo: Cook Islands Prime Minister, Robert Woonton, shaking hands with CIFA President, Lee Harmon (standing) during the ground breaking ceremony.