Tupapa Maraerenga and Ellerslie Mustangs have claimed the first ever Kia Orana Youth Football Festival boys and girls titles, respectfully, after winning their final matches in the inaugural U-16 competition at CIFA Sports Complex in Matavera on Sunday.
New Zealand-based team Ellerslie Mustangs were well deserving of the girls title, proving their dominance in the final with a 3-0 win against fellow finalists Puaikura FC after a comfortable 4-0 win against Aitutaki in the semi-final.
Falling short of the final after a 5-3 penalty shootout loss to Puaikura, New Zealand’s other representatives in the girls competition, Beachlands Fury, saw a more positive outcome in their third place play-off, outscoring Aitutaki 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw at full time.
The all-local boys final saw Tupapa Maraerenga upset competition favourites Takitumu Pirates – which featured a wealth of talented players from Titikaveka, Matavera and Ngatangiia – with a single goal in the second half.
Tupapa Maraerenga clutched on to their one-goal lead until the final whistle to become the first champions of the U-16 boys competiton.
The third place play-off saw a more one-sided performance, with Puaikura FC – who missed out on the final after a close 1-0 loss to Tupapa Maraerenga – dominating Mangaia with a 5-0 win.
After a successful inaugural competition – bringing nations together to play and enjoy youth football – the Cook Islands Football Association is looking forward to continuing the Kia Orana Youth Football Festival next year and in years to come.