AFC-bound CNMI team


The CNMI U14 National Team’s preparation for the AFC U14 Regional Festival of Football is on track despite the tough weather conditions on the island in the past weeks.

Assistant coach Jersh Angeles supervises the training session of the CNMI U14 National Team that will be competing in Beijing next month. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Assistant coach Jersh Angeles supervises the training session of the CNMI U14 National Team that will be competing in Beijing next month. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The select squad resumed training early last week after Typhoon Soudelor struck Saipan on Aug. 2 and will intensify its practice sessions until the end of this month before tapering off in the final week before the tournament. The festival will run from Sept. 7 to 14 in Beijing, China, with actual games, starting on Sept. 9.

The Northern Mariana Island Football Association-backed team is composed of goalies Clayton Izuka and John Joseph Bucayo, defenders Cole Chambers, Cody Leon, David Mafnas, Kirt Andon, Sebastien Manabat, Dai Podziewski, and Leandro Bichayda, midfielders Jonathan Capayas, Joshua Abragan, Joshua De Leon, Andruw Omelau, Edward Joon Cho, Logan Mister, Jonah Pohl, and Mark Esalan, and forwards Thaiphi Austria and John Michael Rojas. Former Olympian and Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong’s Luam Khen Koo is the squad’s coach and will be assisted by Wai Wo Lee, while Derek Chambers and Karen Buettner are the team manager and physiotherapist, respectively.

“If we’re to gauge our preparation for the tournament from 1 to 10, we are between 7 and 8. We’re done with working on the players’ skills and the basics and now we’re focusing on their stamina and the team’s tactics,” said Jerswin Angeles, who is also part of the coaching staff and conducted the team’s training session yesterday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field

Fifteen players attended yesterday’s session at the Oleai pitch, as Cho returned to Guam after training with the squad last month, while the three others are still in Hong Kong, attending a training camp at the Chelsea FC Soccer School.

At yesterday’s practice, Angeles worked on the players’ communication skills and teamwork. He conducted a drill where leaders of the three groups of five were blind folded and tasked to pick up a ball and throw it into the net. The four other members of each group should guide their leader how to complete the task by giving out instructions and directions.

Angeles had the same drill three times before proceeding with a different set of exercises to warm up the players for the more than one-hour training session.

“We’re doing OK and we will just need to make some polishing. Everyone is healthy and have showed improvement since we started training several months ago,” Angeles said.

“We don’t know yet who are opponents will be, so what we are doing now is to get them fit for many games. It’s a festival and you will play multiple games in one day,” the assistant coach added.

Though the festival schedule is not out yet, the CNMI bets are in for a tough grind as teams from powerhouse Japan, North and South Korea, Chinese-Taipei, and host China are entered in the East division of the competition. Completing the list are Hong Kong, Macau, Guam, and Mongolia.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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