That’s the message of Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan to the CNMI national teams that will be competing in the EAFF E-1 Preliminary Round 1 in Mongolia next month.
“We are clearly the underdogs in the tournament. You will play against stronger, bigger, older, and more experience teams, but don’t get intimidated,” said Tan, who lead the well-wishers for the CNMI men’s and women’s national teams during last Friday’s send-off ceremony at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
The NMIFA head added that the Commonwealth squads should take inspiration from the underdogs in the 2018 World Cup, especially from Russia and Croatia, who proved something in the sport’s biggest competition despite going up against the “giants in the tournament. Croatia made it to the finals before losing to France. Host Russia, on the other hand, moved into the quarterfinals after stunning former champion Spain in the first round of the knockout stage of the tournament. Incidentally, Croatia defeated Russia in the quarterfinals.
“Looked how Croatia and Russia and other underdogs in the World Cup played. Just believe in yourselves, who knows what will happen. There will be no easy game in Mongolia, but you can do it. You and your coaches prepared hard for this tournament, do your best and represent the NMI well,” added Tan added, who was joined in the send-off ceremony by NMIFA officials Vickie Izuka, Ross and Ruselle Zapanta, and Wesley Bogdan, associate judge of the CNMI Superior Court, local football club officers, and other supporters of the national squads.
The CNMI Men’s National Team will be fielding 18 players in the East Asian Fooxtball Federation tournament and the group is lead by captain Jonathan Takano. Completing the Blue Ayuyus’ 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. NMIFA technical director Michiteru Mita is the group’s head coach, while Jersh Angeles and Norman Del Rosario are the assistant and team manager, respectively.
Takano delivered a brief message on behalf of the team, mentioning the squad’s slogan “one” and how the group believes anything is possible as long as they work together.
“We believe in miracles. We can make miracles happen,” Takano said.
Takano and company will be playing against Mongolia, Guam, and Macau in the Sept. 2 to 6 tournament in Ulan Bator.
The CNMI Women’s National Team has the same opponents and captain Janelle Chojnacki vowed to give everything they have at the pitch to do well in the tournament. Joining Chojnacki on the squad are Emalyn Aniana, Guinevere Borja, Sharmaine Francisco, Jerlyn and Jeralyn Castillo, Gillian Villagomez, Gabrielle Race, Gianna Griffin, Emiliana King, Brittany Wally, Carla Ballesteros, Krizel Tuazon, Therize Millare, Katrina Costales, Grace Choi, Pauylynn Joyce, and Sue Ann Huevos.
Meanwhile, majority of the members of the women’s team will be leaving today for a training camp in Japan before they head to Mongolia for the EAFF-sanctioned tournament. The men’s crew, on the other hand, left yesterday for a separate training camp in South Korea.