A POLICE officer from Cove has continued Scotland’s success on the international stage – by guiding a Solomon Islands women’s football team to national glory.

Mark Crawford lives and works in the Oceanic islands, where he helps run the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Royals football team, more commonly known as RSIPF Royals, who recently won the first ever Women’s Premier League in the country.

The 54-year-old has been a police officer for 35 years and spent time working in London and New Zealand, prior to being drafted to the country - which comprises six large islands and more than 900 smaller ones, east of Papua New Guinea - as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands operation between 2016 and 2017.

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He returned two years later – and now his team, made up of a mix of police officers and members of the local community, have been crowned champions.

The Royals went through the season undefeated and won the Premier League title before going on to defeat Koloale in the Grand Final at the weekend.

The success has brought a lot of attention in the country and Mark has been left stunned after becoming something of an overnight celebrity.

He told the Advertiser: “The people in Solomon Islands are great.

“After a few games with some interviews in the media and on Facebook, it felt like everyone in the country knew who I was.

“The team were so welcoming, just great fun to be with, and the community in Solomon Islands don’t miss a trick, so they find out who’s who pretty quickly.

“Life is all about taking opportunities and helping out where you can. Being part of this team, on the run we have had, and with the team we have all put together, is one of the best things I’ve been involved in.

“I never thought I’d come to Solomon Islands to work as a police officer and leave with a championship medal.”

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It’s been a long process, with plenty of hard work along the way, but Mark was delighted to see his side’s effort pay off – and hopes they can go on to play at a higher level, coronavirus permitting.

He continued: “Football is a big deal in Solomon Islands, with the national team playing in the Oceania region of FIFA World Cup qualifying.

“The league is a fantastic opportunity for women in Solomon Islands to showcase their skills and sporting ability.

“I worked with the team, training practically every weekday, with a match at the weekend, since July or August.

“The experience ranged from some international level players, some with overseas experience and some local and newcomers.

“When Covid has settled down, I hope some of these girls will get to play overseas and be picked up by some international teams in New Zealand and Australia. They are good enough.

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“They have the right attitude and they play for the team. That’s one of the strengths of Solomon Islands - the people and the communities. We all play for the team.”

The victory comes on the back of Scotland’s success in qualifying for the European Championships last month with the police officer, who still has family living in and around Helensburgh, revealing that he was tuned in to the game from the country’s capital.

He has even taken inspiration from Scotland’s new unofficial national anthem by Baccara to put his stamp on his squad.

He continued: “I had to watch the Serbia game on Teletext. I was in a coffee shop in Honiara expecting the worst and hoping for the miracle.

“I used to play ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ on the way to games!”

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