Seven-year-old Nathan Antartica was one of the last players to stop doing drills when the whistle was blown signaling the end of the initial part of the 2019 Asian Football Confederation Grassroots Football Day and the first to re-enter the pitch when the second and last part of the program was about to start.
“This is so exciting and fun, the best game I ever had,” said Antartica, as he held his dad’s hand and ushered him toward the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville for the parent-children session of the event last Saturday.
“He has found the sport he enjoys doing and I am glad he did because I want him to be active, instead of staying at home and playing video games. We tried other sports in the past, but he lost interest quickly,” Antartica’s dad, Mong, said.
Nathan and the over 100 participants in last Saturday’s event rounded different stations and performed drills, like shooting, dribbling, running around cones, and passing. They also played in small-sided games for the first part of the event, while they joined their parents in more fun activities in the last part of the program.
The Antarticas’ testimonies just showed that the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, which organized last weekend’s event, has accomplished AFC’s mission to introduce soccer to children in a fun and interactive setting. Involving parents was an added feature for this year’s event, as NMIFA aims at bonding family members in the hope of encouraging parents to try their hand at coaching and help boost the grassroots program.
Martin Jambor has been coaching children under NMIFA’s program, but it was the first time that he and his son, Quido, were able to do drills together.
“This kind of activity definitely strengthens the bond among family members and boosts the confidence of our children because they know we are here to guide and support them. I am so proud to see my son completing the drills and following instructions from coaches,” Jambor said.
The grassroots program does not only help the parents and their children, but also the high-level players.
“We have our national team members assisting in the event and they are learning how to run a program specifically catered to young kids. These players are also our future coaches, so it’s really important that they can see and experience how it is like to manage a team/group,” NMIFA technical director Michiteru Mita said.
“We are very pleased with the turnout for this grassroots program. We have more than 100 kids and with the way they were doing the drills, you could really see that they enjoyed the event. We are also happy that a lot of parents showed up and were very receptive, as they took part in the fun activities,” Mita added.
NMIFA president Jerry Tan, who was at the pitch last Saturday to witness the successful staging of the event, said the AFC-pioneered activity is an integral part of the soccer development program in the CNMI and NMIFA is committed to continue reaching out to young children to teach them skills and provide them with opportunities through the sport.