Northern Mariana Islands Football Association has just completed a new grassroots program and is committed to continue it in the coming years.
The NMI Junior National Academy was launched in June and is catered for U13 players (girls and boys). The program had 15 sessions with each class lasting for about two hours. Coaches from various clubs facilitated the sessions, while CNMI national squad members Enrico Del Rosario and Christopher Aninzo and former Blue Ayuyus Ryan Relucio, who were here for summer vacation, also helped out in the program that concluded early this month.
The academy aims to further hone the skills of youth players, especially those who are being groomed to play for the CNMI national squads.
“The CNMI has a very active youth league, and talented players are selected to be part of the national youth team. While the selected players are relatively more skilled than others, they often lack fundamental skills, such as game techniques and understanding. Also, they may have not received coordination trainings, stretches and exercises to enhance flexibility that are necessary to play soccer at a competitive level,” NMIFA technical director Michiteru Mita said.
“These skills, techniques, and understandings must be acquired incrementally from the younger age. So, at U14, CNMI players often lag behind as compared to other national players across the East Asian Football Federation. Through the Junior Academy, we aim to provide these essential skills and knowledge at a younger age,” he added.
The NMIFA official also said they will have the academy in the regular calendar of events of the association.
Meanwhile, the Junior Academy had a guest coach in Japanese Ryuji Sueoka.
Sueoka calls the shot for the men’s team of St. Catherine University in Matsuyama, Japan. He conducted a clinic for the Junior Academy last month at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville, and worked with U13 and U11 players. The visiting coach also joined a small-sided game with the Commonwealth’s young players.
Before coaching St. Catherine University, Sueoka played in the J1 League for the Albirex Niigata, starting in 2002. His professional football career lasted for 13 years, as he suited up for teams in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and India. In his final pro season, Sueoka was named Best Player of India’s premier league (I League)