The CNMI will have additional quality soccer pitches, providing the islands’ residents more opportunities to join the growing sport’s program.
Less than three years after the NMI Soccer Training Center opened in Koblerville, additional pitches will be built in the same village after the Northern Marianas Island Football Association, through the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Department of Public Lands, secured a lease agreement for the construction of the new facility adjacent to the NMISTC.
“As soccer continues to develop in the CNMI, we want to make sure that more people, especially our youth, will have the opportunity to be part of this great program by providing them with a safe and proper venue for games and other related activities,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who led the lease signing ceremony last Friday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan and was joined by NMIFA president Jerry Tan, DCCA Secretary Joseph Deleon Guerrero, and senior policy adviser Robert Hunter.
Tan said that discussion on the additional training facility has been on the table after NMIFA opened the NMISTC in July 2018. Funding sources have also been discussed, but the top concern is finding a place to build the facility.
“Even if funding is available, but there is no land, we can’t build. Now, we have access to the property so we can move forward with building a bigger facility for our community,” Tan said.
NMIFA is looking at constructing two fields—a regular-sized pitch and a mini one at the lot adjacent to the NMISTC.
NMIFA technical director and NMI National Team head coach Michiteru Mita said the additional training facility will play a very important role in NMIFA’s mission to contribute to making the community healthier through sports participation.
Mita added that having additional pitches will help NMIFA better serve not only the national teams, but its club members. The two pitches at the NMISTC are mostly utilized for training sessions of national team players and actual competitions, while players from NMIFA member clubs practice in school fields.
“To improve our game quality, it’s not only the national team players who should train on the grass pitches, but also the club players. Referees and coaches also need to train in the facilities. Since we are now a full member of the AFC, our program will be more active to improve the game. If we have more quality pitches, we can run many programs at same time,” Mita said.
The NMIFA technical director also sees the construction of another training facility as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to invite off-island teams, which can provide NMI players the added exposure they need in terms of playing against high-level squads. CNMI players usually go off-island to play in regional competitions and have quality training matches.
Mita added having more facilities and bringing in off-island teams will give the community a chance to watch better quality games.
Meanwhile, NMIFA general secretary Ross Zapanta said there’s no timeline yet for the construction of the additional pitches, but the environmental survey of the site has been completed. The priority this year, he added, would be securing the needed documents and clearing the area.