The learning process for the CNMI Girls U14 National Team began last Tuesday when it suffered a 23-0 beating at the hands of powerhouse Japan in the AFC U14 Girls Regional Championships at the Xianghe Football Training Center in Beijing, China.
Japan, who is the favored team in Pool A of the tournament, dominated the match right at the get-go, building a 13-0 halftime edge.
“The girls were nervous and afraid. They felt every part of their body was shaking. It took a while for our players to take control of themselves and start playing the game. This was the first game and our staff already expected our girls to feel this way. However, even with this result, the girls played their best and their hearts out. There were a few injuries, but they made it through the game,” said team manager Angie Ito in an email sent to Saipan Tribune.
“The girls were and still are amazed with the way Japan played. This is what coach Koo (head of delegation Luam Khen Koo) called ‘soccer outside CNMI’. The girls realized how fast, strong, agile, and skilled their opponents are. They now have an understanding and idea of what competition means—how different soccer is outside of our islands,” Ito added.
The Commonwealth bets began the lopsided match with Irish Viray as their goalie. Completing the CNMI’s starters were Princess Alcantara, Patricia Surima, Julie Hall, Khristelle Itaas, Katrina Costales, Esther Jones, Leisha Sally, Lillian Podziewski, Sharmaine Francisco, and Paulynn Joyce. Goalkeeper Theresa Toves, Therize Millare, Alisa Gatharngeg, Francesca Bucalig, Valeria Myers, and Hannah Santos were the substitutes.
Japan, on the other hand, had Emika Kawagishi, Kotone Takara, Chisa Kimura, Warai Yoshizumi, Haruna Tabata, Akari Noguchi, Nonoka Fuchigami, Kanna Matsuhisa, Ayane Abe, Kanasa Takeshita, and Mei Shimada as starters. Shimada led the rout after scoring four goals, while Takara and reliever Reina Shirowa each had a hat-trick.
Meanwhile, NMIFA president Jerry Tan encouraged the CNMI’s young crew to look at the brighter side after the loss to Japan.
“As expected, playing against World Cup soccer nations like Japan, China, and Korea is a very humbling experience for all of us. Not everyone has this rare opportunity to play against and learn from the best in the world. There is no guarantee that US can beat these teams as they are on the same level. Keep playing hard and learning this week in Beijing. We will continue to train hard after the team returns and CNMI will keep improving as we move forward. We are very proud of our players for their fighting spirit and for not giving up until the referee blows the whistle,” Tan said.
After the match against Japan, the Commonwealth players were scheduled to challenge host China last night. China settled for a 2-2 draw against South Korea during the tournament’s opening game last Tuesday.