Hearing news that CNMI players are competing off-island always brings a smile to the faces of former national team coaches Sugao Kambe and Kiyoshi Sekiguchi.
Kambe and Sekiguchi joined Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director and CNMI head coach Michiteru Mita on Footcast with Norman last Saturday and discussed their time with the national squads and how they are pleased with the progress of soccer on the islands.
“One key to development is to have players play in higher-level competition. In the CNMI, after high school, where will the players go? If they could play in college or any competition outside Saipan, that’s good for development, especially for the national squad, as these players could come back and play for the team,” said Sekiguchi, who called the shots for the CNMI national teams in 2010-2011 and from 2014 to 2016 after Kambe left.
“I remember seeing Patty’s (Coleman) daughter (Guine) when I coached the women’s national team. She’s a good player and I am very happy to hear that she will play college soccer,” said Kambe, who had a brief stint with the CNMI national team as he coached the group in 2009.
Guine Borja is among the growing list of Commonwealth players who are given the opportunity to play in the collegiate ranks. She will suit up for Navarro College in Texas this Fall season. Also playing in the collegiate level are Sunjoon Tenorio, Dai Podziewski, Enrico del Rosario, Joshua Abragan, Ryu Tanzawa, Chris Aninzo, Gabrielle Race, James Ermitanio, Albert Bergancia, and Jherico Tiamzon.
Mita, who took over the coaching post from Sekiguchi in 2017, hopes that being able to continue their study and play soccer at the same time will give CNMI players the motivation to stay in the sport.
“When we encourage players to play, the next challenge is to keep them playing, and motivate them to stay in the program. So, when you present them with opportunities (like earning athletic scholarships) through the sport of soccer, they and their parents will have motivation,” Mita said.
“We can have a stronger national team if we have consistency and our players keep on playing even after leaving the island,” the current head coach added.
Mita, meanwhile thanked both Kambe and Sekiguchi for giving CNMI players a good foundation.
“I am lucky that by the time I took over, the players have already improved because of what they learned from coach Kambe and Seki. I knew it was very challenging for them back then because of the lack of players and the proper facility,” Mita said.
Kambe coached a bunch of recreational players in the women’s national team and have them train either at the Oleai Sports Complex or CPA Airport field, which had ruts and unkept grass back then. Sekiguchi, on the other hand, remembered handling the national men’s team that had about 10 players older than him before having a few young players in his last year with the NMIFA.