The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s referee program got a needed boost, as 14 completed a referee course last weekend at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
Jeremish Diaz, Irish Pagarao, Sebastien Manabat, Amzad Khan, Lilian Podziewski, Merrick Toves, Akira Kadokura, Rinto Takahashi, Ezekiel Canape, Marinel Falalimpa, Taka Borja, Davy Laxa, Aloyzeus Angeles, and Nicole Lumbad attended the Nov. 7 and 8 referee course conducted by Asian Football Confederation and East Asian Football Federation instructor Noboru Ishiyama of the Japan Football Association.
Ishiyama held theoretical sessions online, while NMIFA coach and referee Angie Ito and NMIFA executive director Ruselle Zapanta conducted the practical part of the course.
According to Ito, the two-day course put emphasis on offsides, handball, anticipation and positioning, and free kick management.
“These situations were what the referee committee noticed our local referees struggled with during our last season,” Ito said, adding that he and Zapanta had a couple of meetings with Ishiyama before last weekend’s event to prepare for the course.
“The completion of this course is as significant as our coaching courses because NMIFA aims not only to improve and develop players and coaches, but also develop our referees and this all ties up to further developing the sport of soccer in our islands. We are very grateful for EAFF’s support during this pandemic and for giving us an opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the game,” Ito said.
Laxa said the course is very timely, as it’s been awhile since they officiated games because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This time seems to be the best time since it’s offseason and many have forgotten about the rules. This course served as a refresher and another learning opportunity for us,” Laxa said.
The 14 referees completed the practical part of the course through the help of the members of the CNMI national teams. The Commonwealth bets played matches and Laxa and company officiated the games and applied what they have learned from both the two-day classes.
Laxa, who is one of the referees assigned in the CNMI’s premier men’s competition—the M-League—added that attending the course conducted by Ishiyama is special to him.
“He was actually my instructor when I was a referee at the EAFF U15 Boys Tournament 2018 in China. It’s great to have a professional referee instruct many of our young and veteran referees We were able to learn a lot from him,” Laxa said.
“It’s important that we keep learning the rules of the game and develop our skills as we see the continued growth of the sport here.”