The CNMI U14 National Team’s victory in the AFC U14 Championship 2014 Qualifiers in Beijing, China was the most celebrated and talked about sports story of this year.
It must be, as the win was a first in any Asian Football Confederation tournament the CNMI was invited to. To top it off, the victory was recorded against the Commonwealth’s rival Guam. Sunjoon Tenorio claimed piece of that history, as his goal in the eighth minute of the second half lifted the Teen Ayuyus to a 1-0 upset over its neighbor.
Joining Tenorio on the team that made history for CNMI football were Alex Park, Clayton Izuka, Joshua Abragan, Steven Martin, Euly James Ermitanio, Alan Hinson, David Mafnas, Cody Leon, Joshua De Leon, Louie Bryle Calayag, Emmanuel Aniana, Mareko Tekopua, Jherico Tiamzon, Christopher Aninzo, Albert Bergancia, Cole Chambers, Won Kwan Kim, Logan Mister, Anthony Fruit, and Edwin Kim. Wai Wo “Jacky” Lee coached the squad and was assisted by Jersh Angeles. Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Johann Noetzel was the goalkeeper coach while Derek Chambers was the team manager.
The U14 qualifier in Beijing was one of the many off-island tournaments the busy CNMI teams competed in.
In February, the Blue Ayuyus played in the Asian Football Confederation 2014 Challenge Cup Qualifiers at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal, colliding against the host, Palestine, and Bangladesh.
About a month after its historic win in Beijing, the CNMI returned to China and this time the islands’ girls U14 team participated in the AFC U14 Girls Regional Championships, challenging Guam, South Korea, and the host squad.
Up next for the Commonwealth was the 2013 EAFF U18 Youth Tournament held at the Guam National Training Center in Dededo in August. In the East Asian Football Federation-sanctioned event, the CNMI players were pitted against powerhouse North Korea, Hong Kong, Guam, and Chinese-Taipei.
For its final off-island tournament of the year, CNMI travelled anew to China (Wuhan) in September for the AFC U16 Qualifying Tournament. The Teen Ayuyus challenged China, North Korea, and Myanmar.
Despite its commitment to off-island tournaments, the CNMI through the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association still managed to boost its local program through the hosting of its regular tournaments and leagues for the youth, adults, and students. NMIFA also welcomed a new member—the Tinian Premier Football Club.
NMIFA then closed the season by reviving the Marianas Football Cup, which was last held in 2010 on Saipan. The CNMI won in the U12 match, while Quality Distributors defeated the host’s U19 national team.