Guest blog by Ulamila Wragg, CIFA Media
Cook Islands Football Association’s 500-seat covered grandstand with international standard changing room facilities, was opened on Friday by Prime Minister Mr Jim Marurai and FIFA Vice-President Mr Reynald Temarii in the presence of CIFA President Mr Lee Harmon.
Harmon in his speech said that in the last nine years football had brought in $12million to the country. In recognition Mr Harmon was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, the first for any Cook Islander.
“This inauguration marks the second and third phase of FIFA’s Goal Programme set by FIFA nine years ago aimed at elevating national football associations around the globe,” Mr Harmon said.
“Although CIFA has not hosted any major sporting event, our existence has brought into this country over 12-million dollars in the last nine years. As you can see football is not just a sport, it helps the economy and it is a tool to build better and stronger communities.
“This inauguration marks the dawn of a new day for the Cook Islands, a new day for our people and for football. These facilities will give our young people the opportunity to achieve their full potential at national and international levels.”
Mr Temarii, who is also president of the regional Oceania Football Confederation, told the 100 plus guests, that statistics show that the Cook Islands has a high percentage of involvement with the sport compared to other countries around the globe.
“This is a great achievement when compared to the statistics of other country.”
The Cook Islands has 8-percent (1200) of its total population registered with the sport while Spain has 6-percent, New Zealand 6-percent and France 4-percent.
Mr Temarii praised the consistent hard work put into the game of football by CIFA president, Lee Harmon.
“These objectives were shared with me by the CIFA president, Lee Harmon when we met 12 years ago for the first time in Auckland, as young presidents in the oceania confederation. he did not stop and with the support of a very committed executive committee together they have achieved. Congratulations”, Temarii said.
Cook Islands Prime Minister, the Honourable Jim Marurai, was also on hand to officially open the facilities.
Then followed the unveiling of the plaque, the blessing by Pastor Eliu Eliu and the ceremonial cutting of banana leaves before guests enjoyed a tour of the various facilities.
From humble beginningsThe official ground-breaking on what is now the ‘Home of Football' took place on 16 April 2003. With coastal land scarce and traditionally owned by families and handed down through generations, officials had spent an exhaustive two years securing the low-lying plot of land and several subsequent months implementing underground irrigation and drainage systems.
Less than a year later on 2 April 2004, the doors of CIFA's new home were flung open. The Cook Islands football community finally had a centralised facility, an important step for a country made up of island groups scattered as far as 1200km from Rarotonga.
CIFA's administrative offices were integrated into the new building and the association duly stepped up their activities, especially in the area of development. Cook Islands may be one of FIFA's smallest member associations with a mere 15,000 inhabitants, but it has an impressive track record of development programmes in a variety of areas including junior, youth and women's football, as well as coaching and refereeing.
With the completion of Goal III, the complex now has dressing rooms for players and officials, a spectator tribune with covered seating for 500 people as well as media rooms and PA capabilities.
All told, this complex is the football epicentre for the tiny Southern Pacific jewel. And in a country known as one of the most idyllic places in the world, it is only fitting there is now a picturesque home for 'the beautiful game.'
Read more about the opening on the FIFA website.