The 19 schools under the CNMI Public School System will be playing in the 2021-2022 Interscholastic Soccer League in complete uniform after receiving their kits from Northern Mariana Islands Football Association last Monday evening.
The NMIFA donated soccer uniform sets to nine elementary schools, five middle schools, and five high schools on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan to further support the students’ participation in the interscholastic sports program. NMIFA president Jerry Tan and general secretary Ross Zapanta presented the jersey, shorts, and socks to the representatives of the 19 schools. Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred A. Ada, associate commissioners Yvonne Pangelinan and Eric Magofna, and PSS Athletic Program director Nick Gross joined the two NMIFA officials in the donation turnover ceremony at the NMI Soccer Training Center.
Schools in the elementary division will be the first ones to try on their uniform as PSS and NMIFA plan to kick off the ISL season next week, on Wednesday. The middle school teams (boys) will have their turn also next week, on Thursday. Matches in the ISL elementary division will take place every Wednesday and Friday, while the Tuesday and Thursday play dates are reserved for the middle school category. The boys high school ISL will not start until October.
“We are excited for the new season and I am sure that our students will be more motivated to join the team and play because they will be wearing uniform with our school name on it,” said Koblerville Elementary School coach-teacher Francis Mendiola.
Kagman High School principal Ben Jones, on the other hand, said having uniforms puts more prestige to the game and the league and signifies unity among the players.
“This is a great way to start the season, get things right, and encourage more students to play and compete at a higher level,” added.
Ada thanked NMIFA under the leadership of Tan for their continued commitment and support to interscholastic sports.
Ada recalled that more than a decade ago Tan came to William S. Reyes Elementary School and donated soccer goals to encourage students to play. That’s how Tan was determined to promote soccer to students and up to this day, Ada is pleased that the NMIFA head remains committed to that vision.
Gross, who oversees the interscholastic competition for PSS’ side, said the NMIFA-PSS partnership has strengthened every season as both parties share a mutual goal of boosting the soccer program at the grassroots level and providing other opportunities for students.
“We will do our very best to bring as many students as we can to the pitch. Take care of them and continue to develop their skills and character,” Gross said.
Tan thanked PSS and its leadership for encouraging their students to join the program and acknowledged that interscholastic sports is a critical component in the development and continued growth of NMI soccer. He added that it has been NMIFA’s goal to see schools compete in full uniform to raise the standard of interscholastic sports in the islands and make players feel more honored in representing their schools.
Meanwhile, NMIFA executive director Ruselle Zapanta said NMIFA’s donation was made possible through the help of the Japan Football Association and the family of the late Doc Altizer.
NMIFA was able to avail of JFA’s Youth Development Program grant and used the fund to purchase uniform sets and provide additional support to the NMIFA/PSS Interscholastic Soccer League. Whit Altizer and his wife, Lindsey, on the other hand, held a fundraiser in honor of their late father, Doc, who used to be a coach and supporter of recreation sports. The Altizers raised $1,250 and donated them to NMIFA for the ISL and the Junior National Academy programs.
“We hope that kitting the players will bring added excitement, motivation, and pride for the schools playing in our soccer competitions. We know funding for schools towards interscholastic sports can be a challenge so we decided to help. The uniforms can be used outside of soccer as well if the schools choose to,” Zapanta said.
Zapanta, NMIFA vice president Vickie Izuka, treasurer Elna Curate, deputy general secretary Merlie Tolentino, and NMIFA Executive Committee officials Wesley Bogdan and Catherine Attao-Toves were also present at the donation turnover ceremony.