By Samma Mataroa CIFA Photo Credit: CIFA Media The Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) has struck a ground breaking collaboration with New Zealand Football to elevate the standard of coaching…
The Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) was founded in 1971 with the vision to promote and develop the sport of football in the Cook Islands, while paving a way for inclusion into the world body, FIFA.
Twenty-three years later in 1994, CIFA became a member of FIFA and have 12 affiliated members – six Rarotonga Football Clubs, Avatiu Football Club, Puaikura Football Club, Nikao Football Club, Matavera Football Club, Titikaveka Football Club, Tupapa Maraerenga Football Club, and six Outer Island Associations, Atiu Football Association, Aitutaki Football Association, Mangaia Football Association, Mauke Football Association, Mitiaro Football Association and Pukapuka Football Association.
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, men’s, women’s, coaching and refereeing. Running these programmes is often a challenge for CIFA due to the sheer distance between the islands which cover an area the size of Western Europe.
The pride of the national association is its FIFA-funded headquarters plus a national football academy with two playing pitches; an international standard playing pitch and a training pitch, which were completed and opened in 2004.
Due to developments in recent years CIFA’s ‘Home of Football’ 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’.
The Aitutaki FA Headquarters and Education Centre was opened in May 2013. The FIFA Goal Project provides a focal point for education coaches, referees, players and administrators and became the first office facility for any sporting code on the island.
Despite the geographical obstacles, CIFA has successfully run its development programmes and holds competitions on a national scale, with the national youth and senior championships.
The best youth players are identified through this exercise and are invited to train at the national football academy where Cook Islands national teams march into camp before OFC and FIFA qualifying tournaments.
CIFA runs its national league on the main island of Rarotonga for its six clubs with a knockout cup at the end of the season, while each Island Association organises their own competitions on their islands.