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Buckie man is a Kiwi football star

THIRTY selfless years dedicated to developing grassroots football in New Zealand have resulted in a Buckie ex-pat being recognised with a royal honour.

Malcolm Cowie, who has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit. Picture: St Kentigern College
Malcolm Cowie, who has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit. Picture: St Kentigern College

In 1988 Malcolm Cowie left Buckie for a new life with St Kentigern College in Auckland and set about nurturing schools and youth football in a country which was traditionally in thrall to two rugby codes and cricket.

Three decades later his determination has earned him the New Zealand Order of Merit.

This has been celebrated by his brother Willie Cowie, a retired teacher who lives in Cullen.

Among his many achievements listed on his award citation are introducing international tours to New Zealand secondary schools, creating the under-19 Trans-Tasman trophy in 1996 and
driving the New Zealand Secondary Schools (NZSS) Football Association to become a member of the European-based Football Associations of International Boards, one of only two bodies represented outside Europe.

Mr Cowie has also overseen the signficant growth of national schools tournaments, which has risen from four when he first arrived in New Zealand to 12 involving more than 150 schools.

One of the trophies played for has been named after him, the Malcolm Cowie Cup.

News of the award came as something of a shock for the 70-year-old, who still works for St Kentigern College as an old collegian liaison officer.

“I was overwhelmed when I got the news, very surprised and pleased,” he told the Advertiser.

“My first thought was ‘What’s going on here?’

“When you get involved with things like schools football you don’t expect anything for it, you do it because you enjoy it. I still enjoy doing it and still work with the kids.

“Everybody in the football world here has been so pleased for me.”

With more than three decades to choose from Mr Cowie, who instituted a football academy and brought the sport into the curriculum at St Kentigern on his arrival, has plenty to look back on with pride.

“I think one of the things that gives me great satisfaction is the growth of schools football and advancing its involvement in the international game,” he continued.

“At the time I arrived the international scene here was dominated by Australia, New Zealand never really qualified for tournaments.

“I think becoming a member of the Football Associations of International Boards was a big step forward, it’s given us so many contacts and helped arranging games and even accommodation for the boys when they’re on tours.

“We’ve been all over the world, including up to Banff, as well as Korea, China, Malaysia and Thailand

"Apart from Canada, New Zealand is the only non-European member, which is quite an achievement.

“I’m also really chuffed to see how the schools tournaments here in New Zealand have grown so much. It’s all been about giving more opportunities to young New Zealand footballers.”

Brother Willie said he was delighted with the news of Mr Cowie’s award.

He said: “It’s just fantastic news, just brilliant.

“Malcolm has devoted the last 30 years of his life to developing football in New Zealand, it’s been his passion and his life.

“This award is thoroughly deserved and I’m delighted for him.”

Words of praise for his three decades of devotion have been pouring in.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, wrote to him to express not only her congratulations but also gratitude for the contribution he has made to generations of the country’s


In her letter, she wrote: “New Zealand has always been a country where people have selflessly served their community and country.

“The honour you have received is well deserved recognition of your own outstanding contribution.

“You can feel proud to be one of the people who have been recognised in this special way and the acknowledgement that this brings to you as well as to those closest to you and who have supported your work.

“I offer you my personal thanks and also thank you on behalf of the government, my parliamentary colleagues and all New Zealanders.”

Echoing the Prime Minister’s plaudits was Phil Goff, the Mayor of Auckland.

“Thank you for the contribution you have made to football and your efforts on behalf of our community and country.

“Your appointment is a tribute to the work you have done which has made a positive difference for all of us as New Zealanders.

Before heading Down Under, Mr Cowie was a weel kent face in the Highland League, having played for not only Buckie Thistle but also Peterhead, Inverness Caledonian and Keith. He also ventured into the world of management, taking up the hot seat at Nairn County and, just before he left Scotland, Elgin City.

Mr Cowie is due to receive his honour in May at Government House Auckland.

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