East Asian Football Federation president Junji Ogura of Japan made a brief visit to Saipan over the weekend and gave an update on Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s application for membership in the Asian Football Confederation.
Ogura arrived on Saipan Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning NMIFA president Jerry Tan accompanied the EAFF president to the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
“We are honored to have Mr. Oguro on Saipan. This visit gave us a chance to show him how we do things here for the development of football,” Tan said.
“We also take this opportunity to thank him for giving us technical and financial assistance. He has been very helpful in bringing a new coach for our nationals teams, providing seminars for referees and coaches, and donating equipment to the association,” the NMIFA head added.
While watching the CNMI Men’s Football Team in its last training session on Saipan before leaving for Guam, Tan also briefed Ogura about the Oleai field and other facilities NMIFA is using for its tournaments.
Tan explained all these facilities are not owned by NMIFA, thus it will be very important for the association to have its own fields through the help of EAFF, AFC, and FIFA in the future.
Ogura in an interview with Saipan Tribune said they may have some good news for NMIFA this summer as far as the association’s application for membership to AFC is concerned.
“The Oceania Football Confederation will be having a meeting this June and in that meeting, we will be seeking the ‘permission or release’ of Northern Mariana Islands from their zone, so NMIFA can proceed with its application for AFC membership,” Ogura said.
“We are positive that OFC will grant permission to the CNMI,” he added.
But Ogura reminded NMIFA that the association has a lot of things to do to gain membership to AFC.
“First is to have various football clubs. There should be teams in various age groups and men’s and women’s adults divisions. Having regular programs for schools are also factors that will affect NMIFA’s application for membership to AFC. Trained coaches and referees are needed, too. Lastly, you need facilities,” Oguro said.
Ogura, who is a senior vice president for Japan Football Association and an executive committee member of AFC and FIFA, said when all these things are put into place, he is confident NMIFA will be granted membership to AFC.
Ogura left Saipan Monday morning to watch the East Asian Football Championship 2010 Preliminary Competition in Guam. The tournament will run from March 11 to 15 at the Leo Palace Resort with the CNMI, Guam, Mongolia, and Macau battling for a slot to EAFF’s semifinal round, which will be played this August in Taiwan.