The doors to the inaugural OFC Education Centre in Cook Islands are officially open following the launch of the pilot at Cook Islands Football Association Academy in Rarotonga this morning.
Members of local football clubs, Cook Islands Government officials and members of the community gathered outside CIFA’s new education hub to witness OFC President David Chung, Cook Islands Football Association President Lee Harmon and Cook Islands Minister of Youth and Sport the Honourable Albert Nicholas unveil the plaque and officially open the centre.
In his speech at the launch, President Chung highlighted the unique benefits that the OFC Education Centre will bring to Oceania and the long-term objectives of the region-wide programme.
“The OFC Education Centre will be a foundation for the development of football both on the field and at administration level,” he said.
“We are training instructors on the ground locally to carry out the foundation and certification course and not rely on instructors from overseas.
“Participants will receive training and qualification in a range of football topics extending beyond OFC’s traditional education programme to include administration, financial management, sports medicine and fitness and event management.
“The OFC Education Centre will enable participants in our member associations to have access to quality education in all aspects of football in their own country.”
Chung explained that developing domestic football in each member association through the OFC Education Centre will be a stepping stone in raising the standard of football throughout the entire region.
“We set up the OFC Education Centre because we need to look at the domestic football first,” he said.
“As you grow up, you learn to crawl before you stand up. The same goes in football. Local coaches and officials need to understand the structure of football and the domestic competition needs to be longer for players to improve technically.
“These are some of the things that we need to educate through the OFC Education Centre.”
At the press conference following the launch, Harmon expressed his pride in leading the region in the new initiative.
“We’re very proud to be chosen as the first member association to launch the OFC Education Centre and I would like to thank OFC President David Chung for choosing us,” he said.
“As the first member association we will do our best to achieve the objectives of this programme and hopefully make progress towards our overall strategic plan.”
Harmon is feeling confident about the rollout of the programme and the positive impact it will have on football and sport in general in the Cook Islands.
“Although we have conducted several coach and referee courses over the years here at CIFA, the OFC Education Centre will branch off into other areas of sport such as administration, sports medicine and financial management,” he said.
“We will no longer be required to pay expensive airfares and travel overseas to educate our officials on the basic knowledge of football. The centre will be a focal point in educating our officials here in Cook Islands.”
“The Education Centre is a great initiative by the OFC President and I have no doubt that it will improve the game in many, many ways.”
On behalf of the Cook Islands Government, Hon Nicholas acknowledged the hard work of Oceania Football Confederation and Cook Islands Football Association in bringing the OFC Education Centre into fruition.
“Once upon a time football wasn’t as grand as it is today. This code was under-resourced in many ways and I think it survived solely on the passion of certain individuals” he said.
“Since then everything has changed in leaps and bounds and I think it’s no secret that it has been part and parcel of the efforts of our president, Lee Harmon.
“The success has also been due to the resources at our disposal. It is an honour to receive the resources that OFC and FIFA provide for our people and our country.
“On behalf of the Cook Islands Government, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your team.”
Hon Nicholas said he is confident in the programme’s potential to go beyond football development and contribute to the building of people and communities in the Cook Islands.
“I think it will benefit our people and our country in the long-term. Our intention is to produce productive individuals – not only well-educated but also healthy. Education and sport promote healthy living so I think the programme will benefit the country in many, many ways,” he said.
“It will offer unique opportunities in sport medicine, coaching courses, and administration courses. On a whole it ties in with our plans by providing opportunity for all citizens in our country.”
“We see this as a stepping stone for employment and our Government will always stand behind anything that will benefit our people.”
Cook Islands Football Association wasted no time utilising the centre, opening a three-day workshop for local referees in the afternoon following the launch.
Led by OFC Referee Development Officer Neil Poloso, the workshop will guide 25 referees through theoretical content and practical assessments as part of the OFC Level 2 Referee qualification process.
Tonga will be the next nation to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of the OFC Education Centre following the launch of their pilot at Loto Tonga Soka Centre at 10am on 23 September (local time).
Find more information on the OFC Education Centre here.