The CNMI Boys U16 National Team’s defeat against Malaya Football Club served as a wake-up call to the Teen Ayuyus, who went on to top the Inaugural Tuloy XO Cup in the Philippines last Sunday.
Malaya FC stunned the CNMI, 4-1, foiling the latter’s bid for a third straight victory in the six-team tournament. The Teen Ayuyus, before facing Malaya, cruised to a 4-1 win over Luen Thai Soccer School and also eased past host Tuloy, 5-1.
“After the loss to Malaya, we had a meeting and the team discussed what we need to improve on. After the defeat, the team showed better discipline and chemistry in attacking and defending,” head coach Michiteru Mita told Saipan Tribune.
“I’m happy that the boys learned from that loss and all the players were determined to achieve our objective—which is to be champions of this tournament. I believe the players’ willingness to learn and do their best to improve is more important than the game results,” Mita said.
After bowing to Malaya FC, the Teen Ayuyus won over Schwarz FC and forced Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong to a draw, 3-3, to make it to the finals. In the one-game finale, the CNMI was paired against Chelsea FC—the undefeated squad in the elimination round.
The Teen Ayuyus then engaged the No. 1 ranked team to a nip-and-tuck game and by the end of the regulation, the opposing squads were still tied, bringing the finale to a shootout. The CNMI went on outgun Chelsea in the shootout, 4-2, behind the goals for Thaiphi Austria, Sebastien Manabat, eventual tournament MVP Mark Esalan, and Golden Boot awardee Rintaro Miyawaki. Goalie Jonathan Mindanao got the job done on the defensive end for the Teen Ayuyus with his two saves.
“It was very good game. Both teams did their best until the end. Both teams deserved to be in the finals. I would like to congratulate our boys and also sincerely thank my staff, NMIFA, the parents, and all people who supported this team. They showed good level of football game,” Mita said.
Mita, who was assisted by Jersh Angeles and had Kwok Kei Poon as goalkeeper coach, praised the Teen Ayuyus’ effort to adjust in a different environment and style of play.
“At the beginning of the tournament, our team chemistry needed to improve more. The boys needed to adapt to a different weather, environment, and football style,” the head coach said.
Mita added that more than winning, it’s important for his boys to learn from their experiences in the tournament, especially after meeting people who stay in Tuloy sa Don Bosco.
“They made new friends and learned different cultures. After meeting the boys in Tuloy, our players realized how lucky they are,” the Northern Mariana Islands Football Asspciation technical director said.
Tuloy, according to its website, is a center that cares for the poor and abandoned children from the streets or from abusive family environments. Tuloy residents are given free education, accommodation, food, and medical services and are also taught other skills that will prepare them for a better and productive life once they leave the center.