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Cook Islands football forfeits Pacific Games playoff matches

Monday 27 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Football, Pacific Games 2023, Sports

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Cook Islands football forfeits  Pacific Games playoff matches
The women’s side who finished third in Pool A was set to take on American Samoa in the 9th place playoff on November 28 (Solomon Islands time). In the pool play, Cook Islands lost to New Caledonia 2-5 and Papua New Guinea 0-3 before beating American Samoa 3-0. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 23112403

The Cook Islands football men’s and women’s football teams were asked by their governing body to forfeit their playoff matches at the Pacific Games without the knowledge of Team Cook Islands management.

The national teams left Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Saturday night (Cook Islands time).

The men’s team was scheduled to play Papua New Guinea yesterday after finishing second in Pool A with a win over Tonga 2-1 and a 0-8 loss to New Caledonia. Depending on their result against PNG, the Cook Islands side would have featured in the 5th or 7th place playoffs.

The women’s side who finished third in Pool A was set to take on American Samoa in the 9th place playoff on November 28 (Solomon Islands time). In the pool play, Cook Islands lost to New Caledonia 2-5 and Papua New Guinea 0-3 before beating American Samoa 3-0.

Team Cook Islands chef de mission Mark Short referred Cook Islands News to Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) for comments on the matter.

Short said: “The decision they made was done without my knowledge however I will address this with CIFA when I return.”

“In the meantime, my focus is on the games that have yet to be played.”

The newspaper reached out to CIFA, asking the football governing body to explain its decision to recall the teams earlier, thereby forfeiting the playoff matches and an opportunity to improve their international rankings.

In a statement, Cook Islands Football Association said the decision to recall the Cook Islands football teams was not taken lightly.

“Prior to the team’s departure for Pacific Games, it had been agreed upon within CIFA that should our teams not make it to the semi-finals, they would return early,” CIFA said.

“This decision was primarily influenced by the limited availability of flights out of Honiara. Coordinating travel for a group of our size presents a logistical challenge, particularly given that members of our team would potentially be stranded in Honiara for up to two weeks after the conclusion of the games.

“The decision to return early was made with the well-being of our team members in mind.”

CIFA said that all team officials were informed about this arrangement before their travel plans were finalised.

“It appears there may have been a breakdown in communication, and for this, we sincerely apologise,” the association said.

“CIFA understands and regrets any embarrassment or negative perception this may have caused Team Cook Islands or the spirit of the Pacific Games. We are committed to learning from this experience and will strive to manage similar situations more effectively in the future.”

Meanwhile, as of 8pm last night, Team Cook Islands was placed eighth on the medal standings with 11 medals – five gold, three silver and three bronze medals.