- Name: Cook Islands Round Cup
- Sponsored Name: The Vans Premiership
- Founded: 1950
- Number of Teams: 6
- Level on Pyramid: First
Social Media Channels
- Website: www.cookislandsfootball.com
- Facebook: Cook Islands Football Association
- Twitter: n/a
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/cifa_official
- YouTube: n/a
Brief History and League Structure
The Cook Islands Round Cup is the top division of the Cook Islands, a self-governing Polynesian island country in the South Pacific Ocean, in free association with New Zealand. The country comprises 15 islands that are situated to the northeast of the North Island of New Zealand, and sandwiched between Niue and Tonga to the west, and French Polynesia to the east. The Cook Islands Football Association is a full member of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and FIFA with the winners of the Cook Islands Round Cup being able to compete in the following season’s OFC Champions League, normally entering at the qualifying round stage of the tournament.
The Cook Islands have had a national football championship since 1950 with the inaugural winners being Titikaveka FC who have won the title 14 times in their history, although they haven’t been national champions since 1984! Whilst several of the clubs competing in the Cook Islands Round Cup have their own ground, several matches also take place at the Tereora Stadium, the national stadium of the Cook Islands.
The six teams that currently compete in the Cook Islands Round Cup are all based on the island of Rarotonga which is the largest and most populous island of all of the Cook Islands. The teams play each other team in the league three times resulting in a 15-game schedule, with the season starting in August and finishing in November. The final positions of the Round Cup then determine the end-of-season Knock-Out Tournament, with the bottom four finishing clubs playing in the first round before taking on the league champions and runners-up in the semi-finals of the national cup competition. The final of this cup competition is then usually played before the Christmas period.
Questions on the Cook Islands Round Cup
To get more information on the top tier of football in the Cook Islands, we asked questions to the excellent Luc Fernandez. Luc is a French football player who currently plays as a defender for US Revel in the sixth tier of French football. However, Luc is also a keen world football enthusiast and has previously played football in the Cook Islands for Tupapa Maraerenga. Should you wish to find out more about Luc then please find links to his social media pages below:
- Twitter: @lfrndz15
Q. Firstly, what is the current state or performance of the league?
Since 2018, the Round Cup has seen six teams competing in three rounds of games, equalling 15 games for each team. The winner of the competition qualifies for the First Round of the OFC Champions League. The Round Cup is a small league in Oceania but in saying that it is probably the most competitive of the ‘small leagues’ in the region when compared with league football in Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa.
Q. Historically, which teams have been the most successful in the league, and which ones are the strongest currently?
The strongest team historically is my former club, Tupapa Maraerenga who have won sixteen Cook Islands championships in their history. They are closely followed by Titikaveka FC (fourteen titles), who won most of their titles during the 1970s. Currently, the two strongest teams in the Cook Islands are Tupapa Maraerenga and Nikao Sokattak FC, closely followed by Puaikura FC. Since the year 2000, Tupapa has won 13 Round Cups, Nikao 7, and Puaikura has won 2 titles. Last year, Nikao won the title, with the previous four titles being won by Tupapa.
Q. Which teams in the league are the most popular in the country?
From my time playing in the Cook Islands, I remember that Tupapa and Nikao were very well suported. However, on each ground Puaikura, Titikeveka, Matavera, and Avatiu are also popular in their own right. Football is a very popular sport amongst the people of the Cook Islands and they like to watch offensive and spectacular styles of play. The fans come to see not only the senior men’s teams but also women’s games and youth football too, which is fantastic.
Q. What would you say is the league’s biggest game or rivalry of the season?
I remember that the games between Tupapa and Puaikura were very special and probably attracted the most fans for any of the games played during the season. When these two teams play against Nikao, those fixtures are also very well attended.
Q. Which game(s) would you consider to be the best of all time played in the league?
I don’t know of every game played in the history of the league, but in recent history, I can say the game in 2017 between Tupapa and Puaikura which finished 4-5 was a brilliant and crazy game! It was a special day for Tupapa because they were to be presented with the trophy after winning that season’s Round Cup. They made a great start to the game and led 4-1 at halftime. However, the second half was very different and Puaikura fought back to score 4 goals and take the three points! An incredible comeback!
Q. Switching to the playing side of things, who have been the best players to have played in the league in its history?
It is difficult to compare different periods and players, but it is evident that the two players with the most Cook Islands national team caps, are the best to have played in the Round Cup. Those two players are, Tony Jamieson, (22 caps) a goalkeeper who played for Tupapa and some good teams in New Zealand, and John Pareange, (20 caps) who played as a defender for Matavera.
Q. Likewise, who are the league’s most successful manager(s)?
This is quite a difficult question to answer because there is a lack of data available for the 1970s when Titikaveka won many titles. But, in terms of recent history, a name that really stands out is Delaney Yaqona, a Fijian manager who won at least four championships between 2014 and 2018 with Tupapa. He was also the head coach of the Cook Islands Under 17’s National Team for a short period of time.
Q. In your opinion, who would you regard as the best player(s) currently playing in the league?
The 32-year-old midfield player, Grover Harmon is considered by many in the Cook Islands to be the best player who is currently playing in the league. He is a technically gifted player and possesses a fantastic shot. He currently plays club football for Tupapa and has also played eleven times for the Cook Islands.
Q. Which players have the potential to become excellent or important players in the league in the near future?
There are some very good young players currently playing in the Cook Islands Round Cup and who have lots of potential:
- Dwayne Tiputoa – 24-year-old striker who plays for Puaikura.
- Daryl Areai – 21-year-old midfielder who plays for Matavera.
- Lee Harmon – 20-year-old midfielder who plays for Tupapa.
- Toru Mateariki – 20-year-old striker who plays for Nikao.
- Avi Enoka – 20-year-old defender for Tupapa.
With the exception of Avi Enoka, who was on the substitutes bench, the other players all played for the Cook Islands earlier this year in an OFC World Cup qualification match against the Solomon Islands.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the league in the future?
I hope that the league continues to improve and keeps the offensive style of football that is enjoyed so much in the Cook Islands. The results from previous Preliminary Rounds of the OFC Champions League show that the league is becoming better than other comparative leagues such as in Tonga, Samoa, and America Samoa. It is also important that the Round Cup helps to discover more young players who could play for the Cook Islands in the future.
A massive thank you to the superb Luc Fernandez for answering our questions on the Cook Islands Round Cup and Cook Islander football in general. Remember you can find his social media account in the links mentioned previously.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com, send a message to the author at @Gareth19801, or the editor at @The94thMin on Twitter.