The young local squad departed Rarotonga early this morning for the championships, to be staged in Samoa and co-hosted by American Samoa between January 13 and 26.
The Cook Islands will be playing in Group A against host country Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia and overwhelming favourites New Zealand at the J.S Blatter Field in Apia, Samoa.
Group B consists of American Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Tahiti at Pago Park Soccer Stadium in American Samoa.
The 11 nations represented will showcase some exciting football skills that are great for the growth of football in Oceania.
Under 17 head coach Delaney Yaqona has been preparing the core squad since February last year with up to three training days a week until the start of the domestic football season last August, which then saw training reduced to one day a week.
For the past three weeks Yaqona has worked on moulding his young team of players from Rarotonga and the outer islands which includes two 14-year old players.
Yaqona explains that this is the first time the Cook Islands will play tier one teams as the Cook Islands along with host nation Samoa are placed in the tier two division.
He says that on paper – the Cook Islands should beat Samoa however he says that his team will be taking the tournament one game at a time.
He explains that in the past, the Cooks have only played in their tier two division competition with the winner then stepping up to play in the tier two division.
In this tournament, the Cooks will be thrown in the deep end. However, Yaqona says his young team are as prepared as they can be for this their biggest event tournament.
The Cook Islands will play Papua New Guinea in their first match and the local lads are pumped for a first up win.
Yaqona says the game plan drilled into the team is to protect the goal and hold back to see what their opponents will bring.
“When we get the opportunity, we will counter attack very quickly,” he says.
The Cooks will then face New Caledonia, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.
The winner of the tournament qualifies for the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in Chile in October 2015.
The Cook Islands national under 17 team members are: Chrismagne Elikana (Avatiu), Melbourne Matakino (Tupapa Marerenga), Rechimaer Rairoa (Avatiu), Owenne Matapo (Avatiu), Will Napa (Puaikura), Tamaiva Mateariki (Nikao Sokattak), Sunai Joseph (Tupapa Marerenga), Peter Pureau (Titikaveka), Sam Tatuava (Titikaveka), Kristian Young (Avatiu), Sam Koiatu (Nikao Sokattak), Albert Taru (Puaikura), Atera Maroroa (Matavera), Maru Miro (Mitiaro), Daniel Taokia (Mangaia), Rouru Mariri (Mauke), George Nanua (Aitutaki), Varu Varu (Aitutaki), and Michael Wood (Auckland) led by head coach Delaney Yaqona, assistant coach Donald Munro, manager Junior Areai and physio Pare Tangata.