The CNMI’s soccer program continues to get a boost, as three coaches passed the Asian Football Confederation Level 1 Goalkeeping Coaching Course held in Guam early this year.
Angie Ito, Raymond Zapanta, and Kwok Kei Poon were among the 13 coaches awarded with the AFC Level 1 Goalkeeping Coaching Certificate after making the grade in the course conducted by AFC Instructor Yoshio Kato of Japan at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Harmon last Jan. 31. Ito works with the CNMI women’s national team program and also helps out Northern Mariana Islands Football Association members, while Zapanta plays goalie in the M-League and coaches a local club, too. Poon is from Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong, but has been visiting Saipan regularly to give assistance to the program, especially for goalkeepers.
Ito thanked NMIFA, GFA, and the AFC for providing licensed coaches like them the opportunity to learn more about goalkeeping so they can share them to players and encourage more to try playing one of the crucial spots on a team.
“As a national team coach, I’ve seen the struggle finding players who want to play goalkeepers. I think a goalkeeper is one of the most important positions in the field and it’s something that us, coaches, need to teach to our players, both in club and national level,” Ito said.
“We hope to be able to assist better in our national team trainings and increase the number of interest in goalkeeping as well as help in the continued development of our goalkeepers in the national team,” said Ito, who also plays as goalie in the 2020 Dove Women’s Spring League.
Zapanta echoed Ito’s sentiments, saying that with coaches better equipped with the knowledge in goalkeeping, it will be easier for them to reach out to players interested in the position, especially those in the youth league.
“It (course) was insightful because we got more in depth techniques and skills of the goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach, and shared experiences with other coaches. Using what I learned, I hope to improve our goalkeepers in the club from all age divisions,” Zapanta said.
“We hope to get more players interested in the position because it is not a popular position and some do not understand its importance in the game. I play as a goalkeeper in the M-League, and with practice I am sure I can be a better player as well,” he added.
The course completed by Zapanta, Ito, and Poon and conducted by the former Japan National Team player and professional goalkeeper featured classroom sessions, practical sessions with assessments, and a theory exam. Qualified course participants were coaches who must have at least an AFC “C” Coaching Certificate or equivalent, as approved by AFC.
The AFC Level 1 Goalkeeping Coaching Certificate is the first of three in a tiered education system under the zone. To be an official goalkeeper coach at the U16 to senior international level, coaches must have at least the Level 2 certificate this year through 2021, according to the AFC Competitions Operations Manual 2019 Edition 2. By 2022, goalkeeper coaches must have a Level 3 certificate.
Besides Zapanta, Ito, and Poon, 10 Guam coaches also received the AFC certificate. The list includes Chima Mbakwem, Pution Mendiola, Chyna Ramirez, Kimberly Sherman, Ralph Awa, Robert Becker, Ashley Besagar, Julius Campos, Shawn Gumataotao, and Gary Larkin.