Since its arrival at the CISNOC Beach Games last month, beach soccer continues to garner a devoted fan-base with the Cook Islands Beach Soccer Championship the most recent addition to the footballing calendar.
Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) competition manager, Pauline Dean, said the goal was to build on the success of last month’s initiation to the football offshoot.
“The teams have been really geared to go again so we thought, why not keep the hype going?” Dean said.
“We will definitely see more beach soccer in the Cook Islands.”
The final day of competition in the CIFA Women’s Beach Soccer Championship was held over the weekend, with Ladies in Black taking out the inaugural title, following some surprising results on the last match day.
Puaikura Maidenz had been hot favourites to win the competition based on their early results and going into the final round, stood in good stead to lift the trophy.
However, their final opponent were The Vibers, who were just a point behind in the standings alongside the Ladies in Black, when the action got underway.
The first match of Round 5 saw Ladies in Black take on the Titikaveka Blue Blazes, and the CISNOC Beach Game champions were quick to assert their dominance with two goals in the first half. Soon three goals behind, the Blue Blazes looked to be making a miraculous comeback as they found the back of the net in the second half. However, the Ladies in Black proved too strong, securing a 4-1 victory to put themselves at the top of the standings.
The day’s final match became the title decider with Puaikura Maidenz taking on The Vibers, with both sides still in with a chance of lifting the trophy.
After a closely contested first half, The Vibers managed to open the scoring just ahead of the break to give the side an advantage going into the final half. Puaikura Maidenz were keen to pull themselves back into the mix but an attacking focus left their defences weak, allowing The Vibers to slot a second and ensure a 2-0 victory.
The Vibers win saw them move into second, behind Ladies in Black on goal difference, while Puaikura Maidenz dropped to third place.
In the day’s third match, Puaikura Galz played Matavera FC Women;s team with the young side from Puaikura coming up 3-2 victors over their opponents.
Dean said the tight field meant the final round had teams and fans alike, eager to see who would triumph.
“Puaikura Maidenz were expected to win the competition and were undefeated until the last game of the competition,” she said.
“Puaikura Maidenz defeated Ladies in Black, Ladies in Black defeated The Vibers who then defeated Puaikura Maidenz. Ladies in Black were cheering for The Vibers during that final game so they could win the competition.”
The results were tight at the top of the table with many of the top three teams featuring former or current internationals. However, among the six competing teams there was plenty of talent on display.
“The level has been as expected and we could see from day one what the teams were like in terms of skill and intensity. It’s fast and short and a lot of leg work compared to 11-a-side football.
“It’s been something different for football players and for supporters and we noticed interest from people you’ve never see on a football pitch – grass or sand.”
The competition was played at the Nikao Beach Courts, which Dean said is a volleyball facility first and foremost.
“We managed to fit to the minimum measurements for beach soccer and it is at least somewhere we can play for now.”
As for the future of the discipline in the Cook Islands? There’s plenty of interest, so it can’t be ruled out.
“It’ll be good to host another competition this year, but that will be dependent on other football programming we have in-store before the main season kicks off. But this definitely isn’t the last we will see of beach soccer in the Cook Islands.”