Northern Mariana Islands Football Association joined the rest of the world in celebrating AFC Women’s Football Day last Sunday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
Fifty-eight youth players participated in the event that also coincided with the International Women’s Day, according to NMIFA general secretary Ross Zapanta.
“Asian Football Confederation designated the same day as AFC Women’s Football Day and asked all member associations to have activities for female players. To support NMIFA, AFC provided 100 shirts and 100 bibs,” Zapanta said.
Participants in the weekend event that started at 8am and ended at 12pm were taught various warm-up game drills and skills and played in small-sided games. NMIFA technical director Kiyoshi Sekiguchi led the activities and was assisted by former Olympian Luam Khen Koo and Takemoto Suzuki of Chelsea FC Soccer School (Hong Kong), Saipan Soccer School’s Jersh Angeles, Mae Ito, Ruselle Zapanta, Irish Pagarao, Jeralyn Castillo, and Christy Villaflor and NMIFA’s Gigi Zapanta, while NMIFA president Jerry Tan and vice president Vickie Izuka were also present at the event.
Players were divided into five age groups—U8, U10, U12, and U14—and each had about one-hour session with the facilitators.
The U14 division drew the most participants with 17 and the list included Paire Football Club’s Guinevere Borja, Jessme Jones, Sharmaine and Shiann Cabrera, and Anela Duenas; Shirley’s FC’s Jerlyn Castillo, Katherime Magat, Samantha Manacop, Jasmin Phan, and Mia Carreon; Kanoa FC’s Princess Alcantara, Theresa Toves, Nikkie Maanao, and Ericka Santiago; and Hopwood Junior High School’s Cherry Acbo, and Annverose and Dianavher Naanep.
In the U12 division, MP United players Julianne Hall, Maury Zon Tybaco, Maaya Sato, Erie Ortega, Ellie Epley, and Maya Shimizu led the list. There were joined by Matansa’s Barbara Peteru, Paire’s Lilian Podziewski and Sunny Hyun, Shirley’s FC’s Katrina Costales, San Vicente Elementary School’s Victoria Torres, Oleai’s Joana Signio, Jenny Capayas, Lovely Loyola, and Thereze Ray Millari.
MP United also had the most participants in the U10 age group with Aubrey Ricci and Audre Lizbeth Castro, Miyuki Takayama, Stephanie Kim, Angela Zu, and Meng Xi Zheng on the list. Completing the field were Tan Holdings’ Nicole Lumbad and Riza Relucio, San Vicente’s Francine Albuen and Aiyana Celis, Paire’s Soleil Lamar, Kanoa’s Sophia Quintos, Oleai’s Berlianna Higgins, Lata Paongo, Claire Park, and Julian Capayas.
In the U8 division, Tan Holdings FC had five representatives in Mariana Katherine Angeles, Andrei Kaithlyn and Julie Anne Chavez, Dream Jayna Mariano, and Kaye Ann Costales. Others on the list were MP United’s Jessiana Tenorio and Kyla Park, Paire’s Davina Chae, Matansa’s Mele Paongo, and Angela Quan.
“The Top 5 players from each group got a soccer ball from NMIFA, while all the participants and women coaches got a specially designed shirt provided by AFC. All participants also got a certificate from NMIFA,” Zapanta said.
“Judging from their reactions, the kids really had fun. Parents were also enthusiastic for their kids, who asked to be dropped at the field on time. Some parents were thankful to NMIFA for organizing events like this for their kids. They said that it is really good that there are activities that encourage kids to be outdoors, doing physical activities rather than staying at home watching TV or playing with their computers,” the NMIFA official added.
Zapanta also said the event will be an annual activity for NMIFA and next year (March 13 or 20) they are planning to make it a whole-day affair.