Inspiring next generation of players


Hark Galarion works on a drill during their practice session last week at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville. (Contributed Photo)

Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director and CNMI Men’s National Team head coach Michiteru Mita was among the well-wishers of the seven players leaving the islands to pursue their studies and he thanked them for their continued involvement with the program.

“Them coming back and training together brings a lot of benefits for the national team,” said Mita.

Sunjoon Tenorio, Hark Galarion, Joshua Abragan, Enrico Del Rosario, Chris Aninzo, and Ryan Relucio returned to Saipan and rejoined the national team’s practice sessions at the NMI Soccer Training Center. They are going off-island anew to get ready for the resumption of their classes in universities, while Thaiphi Austria will start his, as he heads to Trine University in Indiana.

CNMI Men’s National Team head coach Michiteru Mita watches his players perform drills. (Contributed Photo)

Though the returning players had limited training sessions with their teammates, Mita said their presence on the team is big enough, especially to the young members of the squad

“First, at this time of the pandemic it means a lot for the team that we can train together. Second, these players learned and experienced a different level of football in college and when they returned they were able to share a lot of things to their teammates,” the NMIFA technical head added.

“Third, they are all products of NMIFA’s grassroots program. They inspire and motivate the next generation of NMI players. They are proof that players from the NMI can move up to the collegiate level—study and play football at the same time,” Mita said.

In this 2018 file photo, goalie Chris Aninzo, standing left, joins his teammates for a group photo before the CNMI Men’s National Team duels Macau in the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2019 Round 1 at the Mongolian Football Federation Stadium in Ulan Bator. (Contributed Photo)

The head coach also said that returning to the islands gave Tenorio and company a glimpse of how the program continues to develop and what they could still contribute to its success.

“They are seeing the national team’s direction and always think of how they can help the team. We, at NMIFA, appreciate their contribution and loyalty to the national team,” Mita said.

“I know it is not easy to study and play football at the same time in different environments. But your effort will pay off later for sure. Keep working hard and facing those challenges that will pave the way for the national team and your future,” he added.

Sunjoon Tenorio, front, and Enrico Del Rosario do dribbling drills during a training session at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville last week. (Contributed Photo)

Meanwhile, Galarion and Aninzo, who are heading to Guam and United Kingdom, respectively, said rejoining the national team is something they look forward to every time their return to the islands. They are also thankful that they are part of the national team and are given opportunities to play off-island.

“It’s always an honor to come back and train. There is nothing better in the world than playing football and experiencing different places, along with meeting great people,” Galarion said.

“Being able to spend time here at home has been a blessing. I don’t think there could have been a better place to be during this pandemic and being able to resume national team training has helped us stay fit offseason. Also, we are happy to help develop football for the future generations,” Aninzo said.

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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