Two CNMI national teams are leaving for China to participate in Asian Football Confederation-sanctioned tournaments.
Heading first to the host country is the CNMI U16 Girls National Team, which will compete in the AFC U-16 Women’s Championships 2017 Qualifier. The squad is made up of 20 players, who were introduced to the public yesterday during a send-off ceremony at Kanoa Resort. The list includes goalies Toremy Diaz and Irish Viray, defenders Princess Alcantara, Anela Duenas, Ericka Santiago, Samantha Manacop, Patricia Surima, Grace Choi, and Franchesca Bucalig, midfielders Jerlyn Castillo, Leisha Sally, Valeria Myers, Esther Jones, Gillian Villagomez, and Jasmine Phan, forwards Katherine Magat, Jobelle Tabuena, and Ruschelle Valino and team captains Lyka Sally and Guinevere Borja.
Taketomo Suzuki is the squad’s coach and will be assisted by Patricia Coleman. Olympian Luam Khen Koo is the head of the delegation and completing the group are team manager Gigi Zapanta, equipment manager Longwen Ji, team supervisor Yu Hung Lee, and physiotherapist Pam Carhill.
The CNMI U16 Girls National Team will be challenging India, Malaysia, South Korea, and the Philippines in the qualifier, which will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 at the Luneng Football School in Weifang. The Commonwealth bets are in Group B of the qualifier, which is divided into four pools with the top finisher in each group following a round-robin play advancing to the finals that will be held next year. The CNMI delegation will leave Saipan for Weifang this Friday.
The CNMI U14 Boys National Team, on the other hand, will depart for Beijing on Sept. 4 to participate in the 2016 AFC U14 Festival.
The Commonwealth, through the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, is sending an 18-player squad to Beijing with captains John Michael Rojas and Sebastien Manabat leading the roster. Other members of the team are Mark Salamat, Kirt Andon, Ichiro Borja, Terrance Montenegro, John Guiller Canape, Jamin Elliot, Edward Cho, Mark Esalan, Joshua Waldon, Brandon Delos Reyes, Christian Aldan, Kirro Batino, Thomas Benavente, John Paul Cruz, Joshua Mendez, and Eun Syu Hahn.
Jersh Angeles is the team’s coach and will work with assistant Wai Wo Lee. NMIFA technical director and CNMI Men’s National Team coach Kiyoshi Sekiguchi is the head of the delegation, while Jungsang Park is the group’s physiotherapist.
“Every time we are holding a send-off ceremony, I feel very proud and happy because this means our players are competing in a higher-level tournament. This means that they are working hard to become better players and when they return they will inspire other players to do the same—train hard and develop their skills so someday they will be the one who will represent the CNMI in these tournaments,” NMIFA president Jerry Tan said.
The CNMI’s girls U16 and boys U14 crew are the fourth and fifth teams that NMIFA will be fielding in off-island competitions this year. The first three were the NMI Girls U14 National Team that joined the AFC U14 Girls Regional Championships at the Xianghe Football Training Center in Beijing in May and the CNMI men’s and women’s national nationals squads in Guam for the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2017 Round 1 held last June.
“This is another exposure, another experience for our players and all these will help them become better. Play hard and continue being good ambassadors of the CNMI,” NMIFA vice president Vickie Izuka told the players at the send-off ceremony attended by other local football officials, club members and officers, and fellow players from teams that had been to off-island competitions.