World football is better for a Levin man's holiday to Rarotonga recently.

While bathing in the delights of the idyllic Pacific Island paradise last month, football-mad Mark Gallagher sparked up a conversation with locals about his favourite topic - football - at any opportunity.

He soon realised he had plenty in common with locals on the island, but learnt the island scene was in chronic need of gear that most players and associations would take for granted, like shirts, boots, balls and goals - even pumps to put air in balls.

No sooner had his plane touched down in New Zealand, he was on the phone to his local association, teammates and football merchandisers, trying to gather together enough booty to send back to Rarotonga.


He said local soccer boss Rob Easton pointed him in the direction of merchandisers and suppliers, while he put the word out to his teammates, which resulted in cash and donations.

"Between all the efforts of all these people, it's going to happen. I am stunned. It's ridiculous," he said.

Gallagher said he was amazed at the response. In a short time he had 130 playing shirts, 36 balls, cones, pumps, needles, boots and pop-up goals posts the right size for juniors. Even his sons' second-hand soccer boots would be well received.

There were more than 40 children aged 12 or less playing with limited gear, while there was also a college team and senior men's and women's teams that would benefit from the donations.

"I'll say they'll be in for a bit of a shock," he said.

His first quote for freight to Rarotonga sent him reeling, until Air New Zealand agreed to ship the goods at a cost of $1 per kilo when hearing his story.

At 51 years old, Gallagher still plays football himself. He was looking forward to next season.

The Cook Islands had never appeared at a World Cup, but the sport was popular on the islands, along with rugby league and rugby.


Gallagher wanted to thank Paul Stephens at Ultra Football, Rob Easton (Levin AFC) Nic Clere (McDonald's Levin, My Ride (Richard and Lisa Horn), Richard Loader (Sportsworld Levin), Air New Zealand, Levin AFC Vets and Ken Stratford (Breakers, Palmerston North).