The CNMI National Football Team will leave for Guam today to participate in the preliminary competition for the East Asian Football Championship 2010.
The Commonwealth will be sending 20 players to the preliminary competition, which will run from March 11 to 15 at the Leo Palace Resort.
The CNMI National Team is composed of Evan Hunsberger, Yoshi Gabaldon, David Duenas, Nick Swaim, Brad Ruszala, Steve McKagan, Ben Wood, Joe Miller, Gilmark Reusora, Jeffrey Cloud, Peter Houk, Dale Roberts, Jason Schroeder, Lucas Knecht, Bradley Brostrom, Daniel Macario, Jose Duenas, Chris Nelson, and Norman Camacho. Coaching the CNMI bets is former Nagoya Grampus assistant coach Sugao Kambe.
The CNMI strikers will be playing Guam, Mongolai, and Macau in the round-robin tournament with the winner advancing to the semifinals, which will be played later this year. The team to earn the most points after three games wins the preliminary competition. A victory is equivalent to three points, one for a draw, and none for a loss.
The Commonwealth’s bets will debut against Macau this Thursday and will play the host in the second game on Friday. The CNMI-Mongolia tiff is set for Sunday.
This week’s tournament will be the CNMI’s second in the men’s competition in EAFF. In 2007, the Commonwealth dueled Guam twice and lost both games. Saipan hosted the first game with the CNMI strikers almost pulling off an upset over their neighbors, losing by only a goal, 2-3. In the second meeting, Guam routed the CNMI in the former’s turf, 9-0.
While CNMI will be competing in the preliminary meet for the second time, it will be the Commonwealth’s strikers’ first under Kambe, who has been leading the team’s training session for only over a month.
“It will be tough because I know we will be the team with the least experienced among the four squads in the tournament. But even before I came, these players have been training hard for the past several months so with teamwork and heart, I am sure, they will give opposing teams a good challenge,” said Kambe, who coached in the Philippines from 2002 to 2003 and in Guam from 2003 to 2005.
“These players will never give up. They will fight for the ball always,” Kambe added.
Kambe, who will also serve as technical director of Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, said the preliminary competition is very important for the CNMI, as this will give players a chance to determine what needs to be done to reach the level of competitiveness of teams the Commonwealth will be facing often in future tournaments.