When you are passionate about the round ball, it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch.
But that’s exactly what Tupapa Maraerenga midfielder Geoffery Strickland had to do when a horrific hip injury put a dampener on his burgeoning football career.
The injury came as he was trialing for the Cook Islands men’s national team meaning the part-Solomon Islander missed out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in Tonga.
It also kept him from kicking a ball around with Tupapa Maraerenga in the domestic competition until his very recent return.
“I was out for a while. Quite a while,” Strickland recalled.
“The last time I played at this level was back in 2013 in American Samoa for the preliminary round. I got injured pretty bad during national team trial but now it feels really good to be back.”
Strickland made his regional return in American Samoa last month for the OFC Champions League 2018 Qualifier and is loving the opportunity to be back on the field, and surrounded by his teammates.
“Playing with the boys is a good experience. We’re pretty much not just a club, but a family. A bunch of boys who are like brothers,” he said.
“Coming here to Vanuatu is a good experience for us.
“Personally for me, it’s been a long time coming as I haven’t been playing at this level in a while. But I’m really starting to get back into football again for the club and for Cook Islands.
The 31-year-old believes the positives from the trip aren’t just related to friendship and brotherhood, but to what the team is able to do for the club, and football in the Cook Islands in general.
“The level here in Vanuatu is much higher than at home. Quick games, fast paced, we can see that in the teams here in Vanuatu.
“Lae City Dwellers in our first match was a good experience, for most of us anyway,” he said of the opening group match against the Papua New Guinea club champions.
“For us, we’re learning more about playing as a team, fitness-wise what is required at this level and the pace. It’s really different to the Cook Islands.
“The higher you go, the harder it gets so it’s really good to for the club and for the Cook Islands that we get to experience this now.”
Strickland said the players who have made the trip to Port Vila will still have an opportunity to benefit from the senior side’s participation.
“Each grade coming up has their own competitions and it’s good for us to go back home and show them and teach them what football is like here in Vanuatu, and in this competition.”