Cook Islander Max Mata, right, in action for Eastern Suburbs in the ISPS Handa Premiership in 2018. (Photosport)/22090521
New Zealand international and Cook Islander Max Mata has plenty of reasons to be taking a keen interest in the upcoming OFC U-19 Championships 2022.
only is he a former tournament top-scorer but he will be supporting two nations
when the competition gets underway from Tahiti on September 7.
followed in the footsteps of Oceania greats such as Fiji’s Roy Krishna and
countryman Kosta Barbarouses when he finished top of the goalscoring charts at
the OFC U-19s four years ago.
five goals included a group stage hat-trick against Papua New Guinea and put
him one clear of team-mate Charles Spragg in the scoring charts. Mata’s goals
also helped New Zealand to a seventh title and earned them a place at the FIFA
U-20 World Cup Poland 2019™.
to OFC Media ahead of September’s tournament, Mata admits his performances
helped his individual career, with moves to Switzerland, Estonia, the United
States and the Republic of Ireland, where he currently plies his trade with
Sligo Rovers, following.
it is the team spirit and national pride he remembers most fondly.
memories of the tournament are very happy as it was successful in the fact we
qualified for the U-20 World Cup,” said Mata.
had a very good brotherhood amongst us. We encouraged each other every day and
held each other accountable.
you’re lucky enough to play in these tournaments it’s important that you make
the most of it and make your country proud.”
Mata, who made his All Whites debut in 2019, that last sentence has double
meaning. He will not only be cheering on New Zealand at this year’s OFC U-19s,
but the Cook Islands as well.
brother Ben, a former New Zealand U-17 representative, captained the Cook
Islands at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – Oceania Qualifiers in March and Max
is clearly hoping the Cook Islands can use this experience as a positive.
very proud to have Cook Islands blood,” said Max.
brother is now representing the country and I am extremely proud to see him
playing there. I hope to see the growth of football in the nation getting
better every year.”
clear that Mata’s own experiences in Tahiti four years ago have played a big
part in what is still a burgeoning career. At just 22 years old he still has a
bright football career ahead of him but youth tournaments such as this are
already in the past.
Mata has a message for all the players, not just from New Zealand and the Cook
Islands, representing their nations this month.
the most of the opportunity as you can only play the age group competitions
once in your life,” said Mata.
proud to represent your country and express yourself to the world.”
The OFC U-19 Championships take place in Tahiti from September 7-24.