Thursday, April 16

Cook Islands Games soccer and squash

The ‘Cook Islands Games soccer tournament’ wasn’t really a games event. Every year there’s a junior soccer championship with under 16 boys and under 15 girls teams from the southern group outer islands as well as Rarotonga vaka. The organisers decided to call it part of the CI Games and at least it had real outer islanders taking part.
Soccer is a relatively rich code in the Cook Islands because it is funded by FIFA. It’s got its own headquarters at Matavera with an ‘academy’ and a couple of soccer pitches. One has a great surface and is well-drained. The other is very good but gets flooded during very heavy downpours.
A grandstand is currently being built by the number one field. Altogether soccer is a very well off and popular sport.
So it’s surprising that it isn’t part of the Pacific Mini Games! The games organising committee set down criteria for codes. For example basketball and volleyball weren’t ranked high enough regionally so they didn’t make it. Soccer, however, didn’t even apply!
It’s an odd decision. It would have given our top players the chance to play against quality opposition and many others who take part and support would have enjoyed seeing good games. Maybe the bosses just like travelling overseas. That’s an endemic problem with those in authority here.
Squash is one of the smaller codes but its players are very active and they’ve really got something to play for this year. Two glass-backed squash courts are included in the new indoor stadium. This will make it easier for spectators than leaning over a balcony looking down on things. A few years ago they hosted the Oceania squash champs and they usually hold an international tournament each year although last year’s was smaller than usual, probably because of the global financial crisis. So with brand new courts and experience in running competitions, squash is looking good for the mini games.