The CNMI Men’s National Team’s roster is out with 18 players making the cut after going through months of relentless training.
Leading the team is captain Jonathan Takano. Completing the roster are vice captain Enrico Del Rosario, siblings Anthony and Joel Fruit, Bo Barry, Sunjoon Tenorio, Jehn Joyner, Hark Galarion, Thaiphi Austria, Sebastien Manabat, John Bucayo, Christopher Aninzo, John Michael Rojas, Jonathan Capayas, Nick Swaim, Dai Podziewski, Ryu Tanzawa, and Ryan Relucio. Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita is the head coach, while other officials of the team will be named this afternoon in the send-off ceremony for the Blue Ayuyus and the CNMI Women’s National Team at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville, weather permitting (the venue may be moved to Kanoa Resort if it rains). Both national squads will be competing in the EAFF E-1 Preliminary Round 1 that will be held in Ulan Bator, Mongolia early next month.
The men’s team is made up of players who have donned the CNMI colors in previous tournaments and is beefed up by young guns. Overall, Mita likened the squad to a school of fish.
“We are like a school of mackerel fish. Individually, it’s small and can’t do a lot of things. But, when together, we become big and beautiful,” the head coach added.
Takano is among the returnees on the national team and will use his experience and leadership to inspire the group’s young players.
“This is my third time to play for the men’s national team. I am always happy to play for the national team and am glad to have this another opportunity. This time I am assigned as a captain but, it won’t change my personality, but of course I have more responsibilities. Yet, I don’t feel too much pressure being a captain. I will make a good environment for the team to be together. I think that is my duty,” Takano said.
“Enjoy any kind of feeling that they have and will have during the tournament,” he added when asked for a message to his teammates. “It could be scary, more pressure, fun, nervous, and so on. We all share the same feeling together as a team. We are a young men’s team, but we do have potential and young power. It could be worst but could be the best. I thrust the infinite possibility for our youth players. I believe in my teammates, coaches, and the people who support us.”
Del Rosario is another veteran on the squad and recalled how he got help when he first suited up for the Blue Ayuyus so it’s time to return the favor.
“I was only 15 years old when I was first invited to try out and join the men’s team. Being one of the youngest in the pool of fit, skillful, and seasoned players, there were times that I doubted my capabilities to contribute to the team, but my teammates pulled me up and helped me get exposed to the level of soccer (games) I aim to play,”
“This year, our team has a lot of young players and as veterans who came back to play for the national team again, we share the knowledge and experience we gained from the previous tournaments with the younger players. We make sure to work together and not let the age gap, experience, and skills (difference) get in our way. I always remind them that a single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong,” added Del Rosario, who came home from Kentucky to join the team’s training session starting last June.
Barry also returned to Saipan after graduating from St. Leo University in Florida to take part in the Blue Ayuyus’ preparations for the East Asian Football Federation tournament.
“Soccer is a big part of my life and Saipan is a special place to me, so when the two combine, it’s a no brainer that I decided to come. My goal is to have a big positive impact on the team and try to achieve what we are there to do,” he said.
Barry and Tenorio are among the team’s options on offense and the latter, though feeling the pressure, said he is up to the challenge.
“I definitely feel the pressure, but it’s the pressure that I want. I play better when I’m pressured and I’m excited for the challenge. I take the pressure as motivation. I will approach every game the same. I will go into the game, work 100 percent, and try to get goals for the team,” Tenorio said.
Meanwhile, after today’s send-off ceremony, the men’s team will prepare for its trip to South Korea for the group’s final training camp before itheads to Mongolia, which will have the EAFF qualifier from Sept. 2 to 6. In Ulan Bator, the Blue Ayuyus will play their first match on Sept. 2 against Guam, while their last two games will be versus Macau (Sept. 4) and the host (Sept. 6). The winner of the qualifier will march to Round 2 and play against host Chinese-Taipei, North Korea, and Hong Kong in the November competition, while the second round top placer will qualify in the finals and challenge South Korea, Japan, and China next year.