The CNMI's debut in the AFC U13 Girls Football Tournament was featured in “Inside AFC,” a section in the website of the 47-nation member Asian Football Confederation.
The section published last Wednesday praised the gallant stand of the CNMI U13 Team that competed in the east division of the youth event played at the Jiangning Football Training Centre in Nanjing, China, from June 9 to 14.
“Debutants Northern Mariana Islands may not have finished among the top teams in the AFC U-13 Girls Football Tournament but they have gained invaluable experience which was more important than the results at this stage of their involvement in youth continental competitions,” read the opening part of the story about the 20-player team handled by head coach Jimmy Tang and assistant Patricia Coleman and managed by Kevin Villagomez.
The CNMI Team, composed of Carla Mae Ballesteros, Guinevere Borja, Maile Aldrich, Britany Wally, Mary Kay Alferos, Patricia Santiago, Jesreelyn Bulaklak, Angelica and Lyka Sally, Bernadette Horey, Angelina Villagomez, Diana Maniacop, Samantha Manacop, Jasmine Phan, De'Jana Muna, Yna Poquiz, Renita Fleming, Chevy Alipio, Krizel Tuazon, and Chloe Salvosa, failed to win a single game in the six-nation tournament, but showed significant improvements in each match.
They lost to eventual champion Japan, 0-25, limited North Korea to 11 goals, and held Chinese-Taipei scoreless in the first half before bowing, 0-2. After playing three straight games, the Commonwealth bets took a day off with two games left in their schedule. The CNMI then faced eventual runner-up China and lost anew, 0-14, before stepping up against South Korea, limiting its foe to seven goals.
“Whether the final ranking is good or bad, I want to say that it is quite a good and precious opportunity for us to communicate with and learn from other Asian teams,” Tang was quoted as saying in an interview with AFC.
“It was the first time for our girls to play football matches with their Asian peers. Although the first match with Japan was such a horrible experience, we did better in the remaining matches of the competition and that made me satisfied with the whole team's performances,” added Tang, who believed the team will play better in future tournaments after gaining experience in China.
Meanwhile, Northern Mariana Islands Football Association also had all praises for the team and its officials for representing the CNMI in the AFC event.
“I know all of you represented CNMI well. This is the toughest group within entire Asia as Japan, China, DPR Korea, and South Korea are all World Cup-caliber teams and the results show that our team improved every game,” NMIFA president Jerry Tan said.
“I hope all of you had a great time in Nanjing and I also hope this competition has inspired you to continue your commitment to train harder as we prepare for next year's AFC U14 competition,” Tan added.
For his part, NMIFA secretary general Ed Salas said getting recognition through the AFC website is a big boost in CNMI football, as the story proved that the Commonwealth is heading on the right direction as far as the development of the sport is concerned.
“Spectators, players, and coaches in China saw our players give all their best whether their down by a big margin or not. They are willing to learn and improve their skills and for that we're very proud of them,” Salas said.