The Cook Islands Under-19 national men’s team is optimistic heading into their opening OFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers match this weekend. The national side will take on Tonga on Saturday at the CIFA Complex in Matavera.
The Cook Islands team will face stiff competition in the qualifiers against visiting teams from Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa. The winner of the championship qualifiers will go on to play in the OFC U19 Championship finals, which are scheduled to take place in Tahiti in August.
The national team is coached by Alan Taylor, assisted by Kimiora Samuela, and managed by John Taripo.
Taylor says his team is focused on their qualifier against Tonga.
“We don’t know anything about the opposition, but our players will do their very best and that is all we can ask,” he said.
Taylor says the squad contains a blend of experienced and young players, including a number of up-and-coming players from the CIFA Academy programmes and players who also competed at the U20 men’s qualifying tournament two years ago.
“This is a fairly young squad, most of the players are 16 to 17, some just turning 18. “The players will get great experience from this tournament that will serve them and Cook Islands football well in the future,” Taylor said.
The first match on Saturday kicks off at 1.30pm, with Samoa going head to head with American Samoa, followed by the Tonga versus Cook Islands clash at 4.30pm.
To all fans and supporters, come on down and show your support for the young men, and enjoy some quality football.
Cook Islands squad: James Nand, Daryl Areai, Antonio Unuia, Parau Ellis, Sean Iona, Willynn Karika, Teokotai Paio, Graham Viking, Tumatangi Tumatangi, William Napa, Kayne Matapo, Lee Harmon, Temata Karika, Graffton Potoru, Conroy Tiputoa, Tereapii Matamaki, Finlay Munro, Manaariki Pierre. Coach Alan Taylor, Assistant Coach Kimiora Samuela, Manager John Taripo.