The CNMI U14 National Team must draw inspiration from the Commonwealth’s earlier wins in Asian Football Confederation tournaments when they compete in the AFC U14 Regional Festival of Football 2015 beginning tomorrow in Beijing, China.
“When the CNMI played in the festival in 2012, they were able to win against Chinese-Taipei and Macau. If that team did it three years ago, our team today is also capable of winning this year,” said assistant coach Wai Wo Lee in an interview with Saipan Tribune after the send-off ceremony for the U14 squad and the CNMI’s U16 and U19 teams last Saturday at lobby of Kanoa Resort.
Lee was talking of the CNMI’s 2-0 victory over Chinese-Taipei during the AFC U14 Boys’ Festival of Football for East Asia, which was incidentally also held in Beijing, China in 2012. The other victory against Macau had the CNMI scoring one goal against none from the former Portuguese colony.
“I believe we have a strong chance of beating Macau again. Our boys just need to have confidence that they can do it and follow what have they been doing in our training sessions,” said Lee, who will assist coach and Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong technical school Luam Khen Koo in handling the 19-player squad.
Lee also likes the team’s chances against Guam.
“In 2013, the CNMI beat Guam in the AFC U14 Championship 2014 Qualifiers so I don’t see any reason why our team today can’t do that again,” Lee added
The 2013 selection won over Guam, 1-0, off Sunjoon Tenorio’s goal. Tenorio has moved up to the CNMI’s U16 squad, but some of his teammates on that group are again suiting up for the Commonwealth’s U14 crew. They are goalie Clayton Izuka, Code Leon, Cole Chambers, Logan Mister, and David Mafnas. Completing the squad are John Joseph Bucayo, Sebastian Manabat, Dai Podziewski, Leandro Bichayda, Jonathan Capayas, Joshua Abragan, Joshua De Leon, Andruw Omelau, Edward Joon Cho, Jonah Pohl, Mark Esalan, Thaiphi Austria, and John Michael Rojas.
“Most of these players have been to competitions outside of Saipan so they now have experience and know how it is like to play against teams from other countries. They just have to trust each other, work together, and keep that team spirit high to get the best results in every game,” said Lee, who is now in Beijing with the rest of the team after leaving Saipan last Sunday.
The squad will play its first game tomorrow, but its complete schedule is not yet available as participating teams still need to hold a meeting this afternoon.
Meanwhile, besides Guam, Chinese-Taipei, and Macau, the CNMI may also play against South Korea, North Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, and the host country.
“The Koreas, Japan, Hong Kong, and China are the top teams in the tournament and we have to be in our best form to give them a good fight,” Lee said.