Young Cook Island footballers will be on New Zealand shores between July 16-25.
As part of the Cook Island Football Association (CIFA) elite player programme the association is sending two youth teams to compete.
Currently, travel between both New Zealand and the Cook Islands is quarantine-free, meaning people are able to travel to and from each country without having to go into managed isolation.
Eight games will be played against teams from Papakura City FC, Fencibles United AFC, Auckland City FC, Central United FC and Māori Football Aotearoa across two Auckland locations, McLennan Park and Ngahue Reserve.
The U-15 Boys’ team will be coached by CIFA Technical Director Tahiri Elikana, while CIFA Women’s Development Officer Tupou Brogan-Patia leads the U-16 Girls’ side.
Elikana said development opportunities such as this serves as a reward for the players’ commitment all year long.
“CIFA President Lee Harmon was the driving force behind the initiative, without it I believe our player development programmes would suffer,” Elikana said.
“We would like to thank our CIFA General Secretary Mii Piri Savage and OFC Player Development Officer Phill Parker for organising the tournament fixtures. Everyone is excited and ready for the experience.”
CIFA President Lee Harmon said it was an opportunity they couldn’t miss out on.
“With borders being closed and travel restrictions around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re grateful,” he said.
“The teams have been training for the past three months and we see this as an opportunity for them to continue on with their personal football development.”
The teams kick off their campaign at 5.00pm on Monday, July 19 against Papakura City Football Club at McLennan Park.
Ngahue Reserve hosts day two on Tuesday, July 20 with the U-16 girls taking on Central United FC followed by the U-15 boys versus Atarangi Māori.
On Thursday, the U-16 girls meet Fencibles United AFC before the U-15 boys play Auckland City FC.
Both teams will end their tour on Friday, July 23 against Māori representative sides Arawhiti Māori boys and Pounamu Māori girls.