- He becomes the first FIFA President to visit the Pacific Island country
- FIFA Forward support is vital for football development in Oceania
- Cook Islands Sports Minister Vaine Mokoroa described the visit as special moment
Gianni Infantino has made a historic visit to the Cook Islands, becoming the first FIFA President to visit the country where FIFA Forward funds are boosting football development. During his visit, Gianni Infantino stressed that the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, being staged in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, belongs to the whole of Oceania.
“I am delighted to be in the beautiful Cook Islands, where you see everyone is crazy about football. This is particularly evident as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is currently taking place, is also the World Cup of the whole of Oceania and a great celebration of football across all of the Pacific Islands,” he said.
As announced at the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Congress on 19 July, Mr Infantino, who has already attended FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches in every host city in Aotearoa New Zealand, is visiting a number of member associations across the region.
This will allow him to see at first hand the projects supported by FIFA Forward, which is vital for football development in the region. “I am proud to visit these countries that are so passionate about football,” said the FIFA President, adding that “for us (they are) all the same, whether they are big or small.”
Following the first round of visits to the Pacific Islands, The FIFA President will attend FIFA Women’s World Cup group stage matches in Australia before continuing the next leg of visits to member associations in the OFC. Mr Infantino will return to Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia for the remainder of the tournament.
Mr Infantino was welcomed by Moeroa Tamangaro, Acting President of the Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA), and the Minister of Sport Vaine Mokoroa. He visited the CIFA headquarters where two pitches, which are the main ones for the island of Rarotonga and were previously prone to flooding, have been upgraded with support of FIFA Forward. FIFA Deputy General Secretary – Football, Mattias Grafström was also part of the FIFA delegation.
FIFA Forward is also supporting the construction of a natural grass pitch and training facilities on Mangaia, the country’s second largest island and one of the most remote locations for such a project. The success of this project will show that more football pitches can be constructed in the remote areas of Oceania – making football truly global.
Mr. Mokoroa told the FIFA President: “Our country, our people and our government are honoured by your visit, especially since this is the first visit to the Cook Islands by any FIFA President, which makes this occasion truly a special moment in our shared history. We remain grateful for all the assistance the CIFA have received through FIFA. You will see some of the benefits of this for today, but this is not just limited to here in Rarotonga. Developing our sports in our upper islands has also been a priority.”
Moeroa Tamangaro added: “I want to thank you for providing our paradise with FIFA Forward funding to allow us to push football further in the Cook Islands. You can count on us to be 100 percent behind you in supporting your vision of moving forward.”