Photo Credit: CIFA Media

In the vast, turquoise waters of the Pacific, stands a modern-day trailblazer redefining the world of football in the Cook Islands.

Tupou Patia Brogan has emerged as a symbol of courage and a beacon of progress, as she changes the landscape in a sport of male dominance.

The football pitch has been Tupou’s canvas for inspiring other females. Her journey began with a dream that would take her to the pinnacle of football officiating—the FIFA World Cup™.

“It was exciting. It was a great experience that I think a lot of people would like to experience. I did have visions that I wanted to go to a World Cup, it was one of my dreams,” said Tupou.

Photo credit: CIFA Media 

Patia Brogan’s path to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2015 was one of sacrifice and determination. She took on the challenge to become a referee while working full time as a police officer, to conquer her dream.

At a time where female referees were scarce, she saw not a barrier but a challenge; an opportunity to prove that women too, can arbitrate the beautiful game.

“I didn’t know how I would achieve it. I think it’s through belief, through prayer and determination and commitment in training. When you put your mind towards it, you will get there.”

From excelling on the field as a goalkeeper for the Cook Islands and with the whistle in hand, her contributions to football extend far beyond that.

As the Women’s Development Officer for the Cook Islands Football Association, Tupou has taken up the challenge to champion gender equality in Cook Islands football.

Her mission is clear: to construct a future where the footballing aspirations of young girls are nurtured and respected in equal measure to those of boys.

Photo credit: CIFA Media 

“I hope I have inspired them and given them that pathway of look, we can do anything. In football there’s equality and that’s what we need to show. It doesn’t matter how challenging it can be, it doesn’t matter what side is it, female or male, we can do it together.

“Whatever you want to become or what you choose in life, go for it. You’re going to run into obstacles, run into people that pull you down, don’t let them get to you, you just keep driving yourself. Stay goal-focused.”

Committed to fostering the next generation of female football talent, in 2023, Tupou took on the head coaching role of the Cook Islands Football under-16 girls’ team. More recently she was appointed as coach of the under-15 girls’ academy.

Photo credit: CIFA Media 

In addition to her work with the youth academies, Tupou is also the head coach for the Tupapa Maraerenga FC senior women’s team, but her influence is also felt on the sidelines of men’s football.

Patia Brogan’s role as the assistant coach for Tupapa Maraerenga’s FC senior men’s side is groundbreaking, but the dynamics of coaching in men’s football has been an exercise in tenacity and psychological acumen for Tupou.

“Coaching a men’s side can be a little bit challenging because they don’t like to be told or corrected. But in saying that it’s finding ways to get their respect and being able to do what you want them to do, so you need to understand them.

“I always believe that challenges are good because when you fail you will find ways to improve and try to get through to players. That’s the main thing for the coaches, there role is, how do we get information through to players. Is it through vision, is it through speech or is it through showing them?”

Photo credit: CIFA Media 

It’s a position that has taken her to the OFC Men’s Champions League four times. More recently to the OFC Men’s Champions League – Qualifying in Tonga, where Tupapa Maraerenga finished runners up following two wins and a loss.

Tupou Patia Brogan stands as a symbol of hope to young girls, and a reminder that dreams – no matter how audacious – are within reach. Her message to young women in the Cook Islands and beyond is one of unity and resilience: “We can do it together.”