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Pacific Games Council ‘not intending’ to take action against Cook Islands football

Wednesday 29 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Football, Pacific Games 2023, Sports


Pacific Games Council ‘not intending’ to take action against Cook Islands football
Part of the Cook Island football team who travelled to the Solomon Islands, were welcomed by family and friends in Rarotonga yesterday CIFA MEDIA/23112818

The Pacific Games Council will not take any action against the Cook Islands Football Association for forfeiting its final matches at the Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The national men’s and women’s teams were asked to forfeit their playoff matches by Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) without the knowledge of Team Cook Islands management last week.

There were concerns that the decision to forfeit the three matches could have violated the Pacific Games Council (PGC) charter.

However Pacific Games Council chief executive officer, Andrew Minogue, confirmed to Cook Islands News yesterday that: “PGC is not intending to take action.”

On Monday, an Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) spokesperson told the newspaper that Pacific Games is not an OFC tournament “on that basis, any OFC Statutes, Regulations or Codes do not extend to the Pacific Games as it is not within the OFC competence”.

The national teams left Honiara on Saturday night (Cook Islands time) and some members of the team arrived in Rarotonga yesterday.

The men’s team was scheduled to play Papua New Guinea on Sunday 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 Monday. In the pool play, Cook Islands lost to New Caledonia 2-5 and Papua New Guinea 0-3 before beating American Samoa 3-0.

The Cook Islands News article regarding the national football teams’ forfeiture of their Pacific Games matches drew widespread criticism from the public.

“All the players didn’t know. Would be good to be looked into,” a person posted on the Cook Islands News Facebook page.

Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC) Owen Lewis also took to social media, saying: “CISNOC was not involved in this decision. We were not consulted. Football has a manager and other officials in Honiara and I am assuming they made the decision in consultation with CIFA executives.”

“We will be discussing this decision with CIFA in our review of the Games.”

Lewis went on to say that: “It is disappointing that somehow the decision by CIFA has been connected to CISNOC and the CISNOC office not being staffed. We have three staff at the games two of whom are competing. The remaining staff are all at work in Rarotonga. It would be refreshing to hear positive comments about the work all CISNOC staff have put into making this a successful venture, not the vitriol trying to link and blame anything negative to the hands of CISNOC and its staff.”

In a statement on Sunday, 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.”