Some of the most talented youth footballers in the Pacific are set to get a taste of the ‘professional football’ experience this afternoon when the OFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers get underway at the CIFA Complex in Matavera.
Four nations, host Cook Islands as well as American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga, are playing for a place in the OFC U-19 Championship finals tournament which is scheduled to take place in Tahiti in August.
The opening game of the championship kicks off at 1:30pm and will see American Samoa take on Samoa in what will be a highly anticipated encounter between the two close neighbours.
While the American Samoa head coach Tunoa Lui likes his underdog team’s self-confidence, in his own mind he’s a bit more realistic.
“We know we are the underdogs and our team is fairly young but you never know the soccer ball is round we believe that what we’ve been doing in the last two months preparing this team we are progressing,” Lui said.
“We know Samoa is strong they’ve got a really good team. They’ve got a few off-island players. We just want to play our game and we will see from there and hope our boys are up for it and stick to the game plan and hopefully it will work.”
The Samoan head coach Valerio Raccuglia says that he will settle for nothing less than a win.
“We play to win and anything less than that is no good but American Samoa is a bit of a derby you never know what to expect, but I think we will be okay and it will be a good game as it always is because nobody wants to lose their game so looking forward to it.”
The Cook Islands National U-19 men’s team is ready to take the pitch at 4:30pm against Tonga. This team features the best players from the across the country.
“This is a tight knit bunch of guys, they know each other well from school and playing with and against each other since they were very young,” Cook Islands coach Alan Taylor said.
“They get on well together and enjoy each other’s company, which is very important. They have been training for this tournament since January and are now looking forward to playing the matches.”
Taylor says his team is focused on their opening encounter 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.
There is a $3 entry fee to the CIFA Complex and family, friends, locals or football enthusiasts are more than welcome to join us today and show their support for these young players at the beginning of their international careers.