Twenty-five players made the initial cut for the CNMI U14 National Team that will compete in the AFC U14 Championship 2014 Qualifiers this April in Beijing, China.
The list includes MP United FC's Wataru Tajima, Sun Joon Tenorio, Alex Park, Clayton Izuka, Joshua Abragan, and Steven Martin; Shirley's FC's Tae Eun Kim and Yaraweschigh Ythemar; Tan Holdings FC's Emmanuel Aniana, Mareko Tekopua, Jherico Tiamzon, Christopher Aninzo, Louie Bryle Calayag, and Albert Bergancia; Matansa FC's Euly James Ermitanio, Alan Hinson, David Mafnas, Cody Leon, Marlouie Santiago, and Joshua De Leon; and Paire's Won Kwan Kim, Anthony Fruit, Cole Chambers, Logan Mister, and Dai Podziewski.
According to Northern Mariana Islands Football Association general secretary Edward Salas, the selected 25 were among the more than 40 players who joined the CNMI U14 Team's series of tryouts that started in September last year. He added that the first cut was made last week and the final one will be done later next month with only 21 players representing the Commonwealth to the AFC qualifiers in China.
In Beijing, the CNMI bets will be facing neighbor Guam, Chinese-Taipei, South Korea, and the host nation in the Group G matches. Forty-one other nations are competing in the qualifiers and they are divided into four zones.
The West Zone has host Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, and United Arab Emirates in Group A, while Group B includes host Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, and Yemen. The Central and South Zone list has Group C host Nepal, Bhutan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Maldives, and Afghanistan and Group D's host Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, and Kyrgystan.
Group E's host Myanmar, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Timor Leste and Group F's Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Singapore comprise the ASEAN Zone, while the CNMI is on the East Zone, joining Group H's Mongolia, Hong Kong, North Korea, Macau, and powerhouse Japan. Only the Top 2 teams from each zone will advance to the AFC U-14 Championship 2014 Finals.
Salas admitted the Commonwealth youth strikers are in the tough bracket, so they are training very hard to put up a good show against their favored opponents.
“Right now they are practicing every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The training schedule will intensify as the competition gets nearer. We will also have them play against U15 and possibly U18 boys teams,” Salas said.
Coach Jersh Angeles and the visiting mentors from Chelsea FC Soccer School (Hong Kong) are leading the players' training sessions.
“Skills-wise, our players' level has gone up, as they been playing for the past several years. They just need to work harder on teamwork and cohesiveness at the pitch, as they are not used to playing together because they came from different clubs. We are also trying to strengthen our younger players' mental toughness, as they will be psyche up by tougher and more experienced players from China, Chinese-Taipei, and of course Guam,” Angeles said.
Meanwhile, NMIFA would like to thank the players who tried out for the team and their supportive parents.
“We would like to thank parents and players who have come out during the practice sessions. We will continue to ask the parents's support as we train our players and get them ready for a high level competition. This will be our first AFC U14 Boys Championship Qualifiers and we hope to be competitive and do well. The teams in our pool are most likely highly skilled, but our players will do their best no matter what,” Salas said.