While the women and children of Saipan have been burning up the American Memorial Park and Garapan Elementary School fields with the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, there is still no way for adult males on island to get their kicks.
That will soon change as soccer enthusiasts received plenty of positive feedback when they met in Garapan to discuss the possibility of forming a men’s league last week.
According to NMIFA director Vince Stravino, the meeting was a step in the right direction for the future of competitive soccer in the Marianas.
“It was a positive scene with nearly twenty-five persons in attendance. The initiation of a Men’s Open League will be a crowning moment to the sport on the island. Through the efforts of a great many people, we already have a lot of interest and players in the youth and women’s divisions and this will mark a true milestone for the sport of football (soccer) in the CNMI,” he said.
Stravino was joined by NMIFA president Jerry Tan and treasurer Vickie Izuka, who discussed dates and fees for the prospective league that has its sights set on starting as soon as next month at American Memorial Park.
Initially, NMIFA hoped for enough players to field four teams in the inaugural season but organizers were pleasantly surprised when informed that local kickers can fill out as many as six squads with a total of 150 players.
The Saipan Korean Football Association was represented at the meeting by Ko Gui Suk, who has played an integral part with the local adult program for nearly 20 years, but he wasn’t the only experience organizer on hand, as John Duenas and Peter Houk also spoke during the meeting.
“I am really excited to see this league take hold. It will be the beginnings of forming a full international men’s squad for CNMI and our hope is to get local players involved who can meet citizenship and eligibility to represent this country in the future,” Duenas said
Getting all of the interested payers rounded up is just one aspect of forming the new league as organizers will soon grapple with issues of developing quality referees and securing safe, regulation sized fields to accommodate the program.
Stravino knows full well the challenge that lies ahead but said that while the American Memorial Park has served the youth league admirably, their facility is not up to par with the dimensional requirements of the adult game.
“We (NMIFA) recently met with Acting Gov. Timothy Villagomez at a meeting with the Asian Football Congress and he was enthusiastic about the future of the sport on the island and indicated that the administration is aware and supportive of developing more fields for the growing interest in the sport on the island as not only a recreational vehicle for players, but also as a way to promote a healthy lifestyle for the community,” he said.
For more information about either playing or refereeing in the upcoming men’s league, contact Stravino via email at email@example.com.