By Timothy Inifiri Jr
For local businessman and football fan, Mr Dekon Trevor Kuong, football is not only just a game but it is about bringing people together, whether it be chasing after the ball in the pitch or just enjoying the beautiful game from the stands.
“Football has always been one of my biggest interests. As a football fan I really love watching football. For so long I have been closely following our national teams and seeing how they perform and their results, it then really furthered my interest to contribute towards football in Solomon Islands”, Kuong exclusively told SBM.
Kuong who now has taken up several football coaching courses and currently coaching FC Real Varane in the IUMI CUP Championship says that his pure passion and love of watching football (professional and local) has led him into hosting a couple of tournaments back in his homeland of Marovo.
“I hosted two times in Marovo, not for the money or for fundraising and to be honest I have lost a lot of money from the tournaments but I was able to get assistance from Telekom, Frangipani Ice and also the Police and many other organisations because they also saw that other than just playing for the prize money and trophies, football also brings everyone together”, said Kuong.
The active football devotee from Marovo said that the idea of hosting the IUMI CUP Championship was born because he really wanted to help in positively changing football in the country.
“IUMI CUP is mainly for young people and I want to see these young people to play real structured football rather than direct football which we mostly often see in the country”
“Football to me is about planning and organising how we defend and attack as a team and also playing constructive and attractive football which I want our players to master”, he said.
Kuong also said that not only will the championship help our youths from joining other unlawful or bad activities but also it will bring them more into football and later play quality football and become quality players for the country.
“For now myself and My Magazine have supported the championship with assistance from BSP and Our Telekom who have just recently joined in and hopefully in the future more other organisations will see the importance of IUMI Cup and help contribute”, he said.
The local businessman also mentioned that even though the hosting of the championship runs as a huge loss for him, as long as it helps in raising the football standard in the country then he sees it as a huge win not only for himself but the country as a whole.
It was in June 2021 that Kuong hosted the first ever edition of the IUMI CUP CHAMPIONSHIP with a total of 32 teams battling it out in front of a packed Maranatha Hall playing field with the matches also streamed live on social media with huge following in the provinces, especially Western Province and also abroad.
“Last year’s coverage has reached as far as England, the United States and also many other oversea countries with many people emailing and contacting me on if we can upgrade the quality of streaming which unfortunately in my capacity, I cannot do alone”, said Kuong.
With the live streaming coverage of the IUMI CUP matches means another huge cost for the football fanatic. Kuong says that maybe later on if somehow they are able to acquire their own gear and equipment, then that is when the matches will be streamed live again with quality coverage.
However, with the unlucky twist of events last year, already reaching the Semi-Final stage, the championship was forced to a stop with the four remaining teams all sharing the prize money.
“Unfortunately last year’s championships wasn’t able to be completed because the recent riots and looting in Honiara occurred exactly on the same day that the semi finals were supposed to be held and when everything seems to be going back to normal, Covid-19 then reached our shores”, Kuong said.
After meeting with the IUMI CUP committee and representatives of the four semi finalists last year, all agreed that last season’s prize money be shared among the four teams.
The recent riots and the global COVID-19 pandemic however couldn’t stop the passion that Kuong has for football. Now with the country back to normal and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, The IUMI CUP Championship has now entered its second year with the tournament already started in late last month.
“Hopefully for this year the prizes will not be shared again even if their are similar events to last year because everyone of us want to witness who will be IUMI Cup’s first champion that will deservedly lift the championship trophy”, he said.
With 28 teams competing last season, Kuong confirmed to SBM that currently this season a total of 48 teams already confirmed.
“With the recent COVID-19 and money harder to get nowadays, the registration fee is the only thing that restricts many of the teams from joining the championship this year”.
Kuong also said that the IUMI CUP has grown a lot in terms of popularity and strength compared to last year with a good number of Telekom S-League Players also joining their IUMI CUP teams and local football players from other Provinces like Guadalcanal, Malaita, Isabel and even Western Province traveling to Honiara with their teams just for the championship.
Other than the IUMI CUP Championship, the local soccer fan who has a big passion towards helping football grow in the country has also highlighted that he is currently on the process of beginning a IUMI CUP Academy which will help groom young footballers.
“Many of the current IUMI CUP players are more than 20 and 30 years old which the process of development is too late for them. The IUMI CUP Academy will help groom young Under 10 – Under 16 players to become quality players from a young age and also help them become marketable professionals all because they will learn every basic thing about football and develop themselves at the academy”, Kuong said.
With second edition of the IUMI CUP Championship, Kuong hoped to one day see the tournament which he hosts being one of the biggest footballing tournaments in the country with the help of other big companies and organisations which hopefully will assist in the running of the championship in years to come.