A much-experienced CNMI U14 National Team will be competing in the AFC U14 Girls Regional Championships in Beijing, China this weekend.
The squad is made up of several players who had represented the CNMI in competitions in Nanjing and Beijing the past two years and in Hong Kong just last month. In the Hong Kong event, the Commonwealth players forced a 1-1 draw against the host and also tied Shenzhen in a scoreless draw before losing to Guam.
“Majority of the players on the team know how to play in this level of competition in the AFC, having been to three different tournaments for the past two years. They gained valuable experience in the past tournaments and it will help them perform better this time. ” goalkeeper coach Chi Ming Tang said during the send-off ceremony for the squad yesterday at the Kanoa Resort.
“I’ve been coaching these players for about three years and they have shown significant improvement since the day we began training. They have better chemistry on and off the pitch, understand the game more, and know what are expected from them once they started competing,” Tang added.
Joining Tang in the send-off rites are players Luisa Alcantara, Chevy Kate Alipio, Katherine Angeles, Carla Mae Ballesteros, Guinevere Borja, Angelica Carreon, Jerlyn Castillo, Anela Eliza Duenas, Bernadette Horey, Samantha Manacop, Diana Maniacop, De’Jana Muna, Angelia and Lyka Sally, Pinyarat Shanweiler Madeleine Taisacan, Krizel Tuazon, and Angelina Villagomez. Luam Khen Koo is the head coach and will meet the team in Beijing, while Shuk Fun Wong and Mae Ito are the assistant coach and team manager, respectively. Completing the CNMI delegation to the AFC event is team physiotherapist Pam Carhill of Marianas Health Services.
The CNMI bets will leave for China early tomorrow morning and will have a two-day rest before their debut game against Hong Kong at 2pm (12pm Saipan time) at the Xinghe National Football Training Center.
“I like our chances against Hong Kong because this is the same team that we played last month. Hong Kong has a lot of first-timers so we will have an advantage, experience-wise,” said Tang, adding South Korea will be the toughest team in the CNMI’s bracket (Group B).
The Commonwealth youth players will face the favored South Koreans on Saturday and will close out pool play with a match against Chinese-Taipei this Sunday. The Top 2 teams in the pool will advance to the semifinals and winners of the two Final Four games will collide for the championship. Group A has China, Japan, Guam, and North Korea.
“We will do our best to represent the CNMI well,” said Tuazon, who co-captains the team with Lyka Sally.
Meanwhile, NMIFA president Jerry Tan, who led the send-off ceremony along with NMIFA vice president Vickie Izuka and general secretary Ross Zapanta, thanked the players for their continued commitment to the CNMI’s training program.
“This is just the start of more off-island tournaments for you and I hope you will continue to commit to the team and play for the CNMI,” said Tan, adding that NMIFA is thankful to AFC for inviting the squad anew to field a team in this weekend’s competition.
The youth team, according to Izuka, will be the CNMI’s foundation for the squad it will form to represent the Commonwealth to the preliminary tournament of the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup.
“That’s our ultimate goal, to send a team to the preliminary tournament in 2021 so I hope you girls will continue training and improve your skills,” Izuka said.
Both Izuka and Tan also thanked the players’ parents for supporting their children and the NMIFA staff for preparing the documents needed for the competition.
“It’s always hard to prepare and send a team to off-island competitions so let’s thank the NMIFA staff for doing a lot of work to ensure you can all go to Beijing,” Tan said.