Twenty one teams and more than 300 players participated in the 2012 NMIFA Youth Fall Festival held at Koblerville Elementary School and Hopwood Junior High School.
Age groups squads from Matansa Football Club, Shirley's FC, Tan Holdings FC, MP United, and Paire FC suited up in fun games for the entire morning of Saturday at the Koblerville and Hopwood pitches to wrap up the fall season.
“It was a great finale for our U8, U10, and U12 youth players with 21 teams playing in all the three divisions. It was great to see all the support from the parents and although teams played short matches, some of the games were very competitive and you could see the intensity level from the players,” NMIFA general secretary Ed Salas said when asked for an assessment of the fall festival.
“The U6 grassroots festival saw 35 kids having fun and going through the various skills stations. Overall, it was a fun and exciting day for all the young footballers and some were already asking when spring season would start. This fall season we saw new faces and we are happy to see our continued growth. We are also very happy to see the improvement of many youth players,” Salas added.
Officials of the various clubs echoed Salas' observation on the improvement of the players' skills after playing for more than three months in the fall league and they hope to bring the momentum in the next season
“It was a good season for Shirley's FC, especially with our U12 and U15 players showing a lot of promise and we can't wait to continue our recruitment and coaching clinic for the spring season,” said Shirley's FC general secretary Puy Macario.
Ariel Mariano of Tan Holdings said after three years of joining NMIFA, the club is starting to see the fruits of its youth program.
“Our players' skill level is definitely higher than when we started three years ago. With our players consistently playing weekly games and training, they become competitive. Some even played in higher age group, ” Mariano said.
Matansa's Joven Cruz had the same praises for their age group teams, especially the U12 squad of coach Rengesuul Yobech.
“I think our current U12 team is one of the best the club ever had in this age group. We have a good group of players. They all love playing and listen very well to their coach,” Cruz said.
“They (U12 players) responded really well to the challenges of the season and the festival. They learned a lot from playing in the fall season and joining the festival gave them a sense of accomplishment and you could see that in their faces. They had a lot of fun and look forward to the next season with the same winning roster,” Yobech said.
For its U8 and U10 teams, Cruz thanked coaches Semisi and Napa for dedicating time to develop the skills of their players.
MP United, which had two teams each in the U8, U10, and U12, matching Paire's entry, almost had a complete attendance in its respective age groups and had the players' family members cheering for the club.
“Excited parents and players are there as early as 8am with all the drinks and food to share with the team. The kids had so much fun that they requested for more games. The festival was well attended,” MP United's Ana Hilario said.
Club president Vickie Izuka said their strikers are motivated to play better as other squads continued to improve and challenge MP United's much-experienced players.
“The season was a tough one as many of our competitors have improved tremendously. Our U12 teams had several draws, which were quite exciting games to watch. The new 'play-up' rule has also heightened the competition and skills of our youth players,” said Izuka.
The “play-up” rule is implemented for players who have high skill level and they are allowed to compete in older age groups.