The Northern Marianas Sports Association wants a CNMI-Guam competition patterned after the Marianas Cup for all sports so that athletes can train year round.
NMSA president Jerry Tan, speaking during a recent NMSA membership meeting, said the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association has been holding the Marianas Cup for years. The competition pits the national teams (senior and junior) of the CNMI against their counterparts from Guam. The Commonwealth gets to host it one year with Guam hosting it the next.
He added that other sports federations like the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association have had similar setups with Guam with the latter’s clubs challenging local teams many years back.
The impetus of a Marianas Cup across all sports, Tan said, was mulled even before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled and then slowed down sports activities on both islands.
It gained more traction lately after the Marshall Islands announced that it will be putting off the 2022 Micronesian Games set in Majuro to 2023 due to the pandemic.
Tan said the Micronesian Games’ postponement weighed on him a lot because sports like basketball, which is not part of the Pacific Mini Games next year, have been training since mid-year with the expectation of finally displaying their wares in Majuro.
“They did not have competition last year and nothing this year and if no Micronesian Games also next year. Three years without any regional games is not good. The [Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Association] called for a tryout a couple of months ago and they’ve been training and it turns out they were training for nothing because of the postponement and that bothers me. So what are they training for?” he said.
Under the Marianas Cup concept, CNMI teams will challenge Guam teams every year.
“We want to see if we can go for the Marianas Cup so all sports will be preparing to challenge their counterparts from Guam and this will be annually. One year, the CNMI will host and the next year, Guam,” said Tan.
So far, the NMSA president has floated four options on how the Marianas Cup would proceed. The first option would be Guam hosting as much as 18 sports. The second option is the CNMI will take the hosting duties. The third is the CNMI and Guam will split the sports with half taking place in the latter and the other half in the former. The fourth, which Tan concedes is the most doable, is individual sports will arrange their respective Marianas Cup events against their counterpart sports federations in Guam.
“I was thinking, if it was too much burden on the [Guam National Olympic Committee or NMSA] maybe Somia (NMIVA president Somia Quan) can just contact her counterpart in Guam and coordinate with the Guam volleyball association and do your own Marianas Cup and you could decide to either do it here or do it in Guam and the other sports can do that,” he said.
Tan, however, assured that NMSA, as the umbrella sports body in the CNMI, will fully back the local sports federations if they do decide to push through with their own Marianas Cup events against Guam.
“NMSA will come in and throw the biggest support it can. One of them is the airfare to Guam and the hotel accommodations. You know what, we were prepared to send our athletes to Majuro so I said that to Guam, too ‘money shouldn’t be a problem because you were prepared to send athletes to Majuro’ where it’s a lot more costly.”
Whatever the sports federations decide, the NMSA head hopes they just make it as soon as possible.
“I hope this decision will be made sooner than later because I don’t want the athletes to hear the bad news that there’s a postponement of 12 months and stop training. Any of the options is OK for NMSA as long as we have competition… Good thing to have the Marianas Cup so everyone doesn’t have to wait for Micronesian Games to come around. One thing I learned is athletes always feel that after they return from a regional event they don’t have to train right away because there’s nothing going in for another four years.”