21 May 2019

Sport: Cook Islands footballer suing for wrongful dismissal

12:01 pm on 21 May 2019

A Cook Islands player is suing the local football association for $NZ1 million, claiming he was unfairly sacked from a national team for going out to dinner with his family.

Bruce Akamoeau Bien was part of the Under 20 team that played in Tonga in 2016 and has now filed his case under the Employment Relations Act.

Bruce Akamoeau Bien (bottom left) played for the Cook Islands at the 2016 OFC Under 20 Championship Preliminary in Tonga.

Bruce Akamoeau Bien (bottom left) played for the Cook Islands at the 2016 OFC Under 20 Championship Preliminary in Tonga. Photo: OFC Media

Bien argues that he was employed by contract but was treated unreasonably.

The Cook Islands News reported Bien's parents went to Tonga to watch him play, and they requested the team manager release the player to have dinner with them.

The family claim the manager agreed but after the 19-year-old returned to camp, the coach decided to dismiss him from the team and banned him from playing for the team again.

Bruce Akamoeau Bien (5R) performs a haka with the Cook Islands team after they qualified top in the 2016 OFC Under 20 Championship Preliminary.

Bruce Akamoeau Bien (5R) performs a haka with the Cook Islands team after they qualified top in the 2016 OFC Under 20 Championship Preliminary. Photo: OFC Media

The family allege that the physiotherapist and the manager of the team tried to persuade the coach to change his mind, without success.

The coach told them his decision was agreed upon by the then Cook Islands Football Association president.

The family also said Bien was left to look after himself without any proper dismissal procedures.

Bien said the Association's decision to dismiss him caused detrimental effects to his international career as a footballer.

The case is to be called for mention in the High Court this week.