Representing the CNMI in an international competition is not an easy task and the Commonwealth’s men’s national soccer team knows that.
“They been working hard every training session and taking very seriously this opportunity to represent the CNMI in the tournament in Mongolia,” CNMI Men’s National Team head coach and Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita told Saipan Tribune.
The Blue Ayuyus will be competing in the EAFF E-1 Men’s Preliminary Round 1 in Ulan Bator, Mongolia and they are on the last stages of their preparation for the qualifier, as the event will take place early next month.
“All the players are trying to improve, not only their individual skills, but also on team plays. They know they responsibility when playing for the CNMI,” Mita added when asked how the pool is doing in their rigorous training session.
The pool, made up of more than 20 players, is training six times a week, working on their conditioning and stamina, team tactics, and individual development at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
“The new pitch makes it possible for our players to have top quality training session. I would like to thank NMFIFA for making this international standard pitch. It gives the players a safe playing environment and motivates them,” the head coach said.
Before heading to Mongolia for the EAFF competition, Mita and 18 the players who will be selected for the final roster of the Blue Ayuyus will go to Korea for their last training camp.
“In our last training here and in Korea, we will be focusing on how we attack and defend as one team. We will need to improve our chemistry and understanding of each other’s ability to play defense and offense,” Mita said.
The training camp in Korea will run from Aug. 26 to 31, while the Blue Ayuyus will play in the EAFF qualifier from Sept. 2 to 6. The CNMI crew will have its first game on Sept. 2 against Guam, while its last two matches will be versus Macau (Sept. 4) and Mongolia (Sept. 6). The winner of the qualifier in UIan Bator will advance to Round 2 and challenge host Chinese-Taipei, North Korea, and Hong Kong in the November contest, while the second round top placer will compete in the finals against host South Korea, Japan, and China next year.
In the qualifier, Mita admitted that the CNMI is the dark horse and they are embracing the underdog tag, as they are inspired to work harder and prove something in the EAFF tournament.
“We know we are the underdogs and we don’t have superstar players. But, we also know how underdog should play against better teams,” Mita said.