2016 Cook Islands Premier Men’s Round Cup title holders Puaikura FC’s latest recruitment has boosted the unbeaten team’s already high confidence as they prepare for the OFC Champions League Qualifier kicking off in Tonga on 28 January.
Former Team Wellington and Cook Islands U-20 men’s coach Matt Calcott will take over the reins for the competition, carrying on the good work and development of current coach Anthony Samuela.
“After being in the Cooks and heading out to Vanuatu for the U-20s, I’ve made some good friends in that part of the world and so I thought I’d help out and carry on the good work that Anthony has done with Puaikura in terms of winning the cup and the league in Rarotonga,” he said.
Before accepting an offer from CIFA Technical Director Jess Ibrom to coach Cook Islands in the OFC U-20 Championship last year, Calcott led Team Wellington to their first title in the 2015-2016 New Zealand Premiership. The New Zealand side were also consecutive OFC Champions League finalists under Calcott’s leadership in 2015 and 2016.
“I had been with Team Wellington for five years and it was a great period but it was good to move on,” he said.
“Five grand finals in five years is a fair bit and a good time to leave on top, and it’s great to have all these little experiences now and get to some countries I haven’t previously been able to get to – Tonga, Vanuatu, Cook Islands and hopefully New Caledonia.
“There’s some great experience and great work happening out in the islands, especially the Cook Islands, and I really want to help out and be a part of it.”
Calcott hopes to not only contribute experience on the side-line, but also bring some experience to the field through the recruitment of seasoned players.
“I’ve had a fair bit of experience in Oceania, especially in the last few Champions Leagues so I can use those experiences and contacts to get a few players in to add to the good group that’s already there,” he said.
“From there we can collectively use all of that experience to ensure that we get a good, positive result.
“No team from the Cook Islands has actually done that before, achieved that next step, so ultimately that needs to be the goal.”
Now taking up the role of assistant coach, Samuela is looking forward to working with Calcott and seeing the hard working Cook Islands based players benefit from new members in the team and stand out in the next level of football.
“The domestic players have been working tremendously hard in all the training sessions heading into the OFC Champions League,” he said.
“We finished the season unbeaten in our domestic club competitions and we aim to do the same in the qualifier competition.”
Puaikura FC will face American Samoa’s Utulei Youth FC, Samoa’s Lupe Ole Soaga and Tonga’s Veitongo FC in the round robin Qualifier kicking off 28 February to qualify for the 2017 OFC Champions League.
For more on Cook Islands football visit www.cookislandsfootball.com