After being hammered in its previous games, the CNMI Boys U15 National Team’s 2-1 victory against Macau in the 2011 East Asian Football Federation U15 Youth Tournament did not only make history for the Commonwealth, but also gave its players a sense of pride.
“After all the celebrations and the hugging, what’s left is that sense of pride because we got the win and represented the islands well,” said Andrew Johnson, who joined teammates Jehn Joyner, Kennedy Izuka, Kenneth Domingo, Billy Hinson, Hunter Jewell, Enrico Del Rosario, and Jireh Yobech and coach Jersh Angeles in Footcast with Norman last Saturday to look back at what host Norman Del Rosario called “mother of all firsts” as the CNMI recorded its first international win.
Domingo, who played as defender on the team, recalled how the opposing squads blew them out in their four games and telling himself “here we go again,” while Yobech felt disappointed and defeated even before the match against Macau, and Enrico Del Rosario, battling sickness, was already resigned that they could not make it.
The CNMI bets fell to Chinese-Taipei, 0-18, in the first game in the tournament and then bowed to Hong Kong, 0-15; Korea, 0-22; and Guam, 0-3. Against Macau, the Commonwealth players were 0-4, losing to the former Portuguese colony in 2006, 0-5; 0-2 and 0-3 in 2008, and, 0-7, in 2010, so you see, the odds were not on the Kiyoshi Sekiguchi-coached team’s side.
“Macau was definitely the better team. But that day, after seeing coach Seki so emotional, saying this is our chance, the better team became irrelevant, it’s who wanted the win more,” Jewell said.
Macau scored the first goal and kept the upper hand for a while before Joyner hit the equalizer late in the first half where the CNMI players saw frustrations and at the same time passion from Kiyoshi’s eyes. Yobech recalled their coach slapped the board—a rare occasion—at the dugout after conceding a goal to their opponents.
“He was so livid with us and at first I felt deflated and told myself we’re going down, again. But after seeing coach’s face as he spoke to us, I knew, we can do better and rise up to the challenge. He inspired us,” Yobech said.
Joyner led the uprising in the second half. After having his first goal off a cross pass from Yobech, Joyner hit the dagger came from Dakota Hall’s corner kick early in the second. After stealing the upper hand, the U15 players hung tight in the remaining minutes of the game and went on to heal their wounded pride and make history for CNMI soccer.
“After the game, I kept looking at the scoreboard, 2-1. This is real. I felt so proud to be there and looking at what we just accomplished,” Izuka said.