CNMI steps up prep for AFC tourney


CNMI U16 training pool member Jerlyn Castillo kicks the ball during a scrimmage against the CNMI women’s training pool at the TSL Sports Complex. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Members of the CNMI training pool will go full swing in their preparation for the AFC U-16 Women’s Championships 2017 Qualifier.

The pool, which has 26 players, will train from Monday to Friday beginning next week as the Asian Football Confederation-sanctioned tournament is just around the corner. The qualifier will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 in Weifang, China.

“At this time, the girls are training four times a week, having a break very Tuesday and on weekends. But, by next week, coach Take (head coach Taketomo Suzuki), will hold the training sessions five times on weekdays as the girls have a lot of things to work on their game, individually and as a team,” said Angie Ito, who has been assisting Suzuki in conducting the pool’s regular training sessions since early this year.

“Our players are doing good so far with no major injuries. They are fit. This will be the first time that we will be playing in the girls U16 age group and we want the girls to be prepared for a very tough competition. Some of them have played in the AFC U14 tournament and they experienced how competitive players in that age group were, so just imagine what the U16 players from the participating countries can do,” Ito added.

In the AFC event, the Commonwealth players will be facing teams from South Korea, India, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

“Our girls have never played against India, the Philippines, and Malaysia before so we don’t know what kind of game they have and with that in mind, we have to prepare our girls for whatever situation they will be facing in China. They have to be mentally tough to play at this much higher level of competition,” said Ito.

She added that Suzuki, who will be assisted by Patty Coleman, is working on putting up a defense-oriented team.

From the pool, Suzuki, who conducted the group’s training at the TSL Sports Complex yesterday due to the soaked pitch at the Oleai Sports Complex, will select 20 players that will travel to China. The final roster is expected to be announced a week before the team leaves. The CNMI delegation, which will be headed by former Olympian Luam Khen Koo, will depart Saipan for the AFC qualifier on Aug. 26.

The Commonwealth and the four other countries made up Group B of the qualifier. There are three other groups in the competition. Group A is composed of host Thailand, Myanmar, Jordan, Guam, Laos, and Pakistan, while Group C has Iran, Chinese-Taipei, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, and host Bangladesh. Host Vietnam leads Group D and will be playing against Hong Kong, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Australia, and Iraq.

Only the top finisher in each group will earn slots to next year’s championship round, joining early qualifiers North Korea, China, Japan, and Thailand. If Thailand tops Group A, the second placer in the same pool automatically qualifies to the 2017 tournament.

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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