A throng of well-wishers greeted the CNMI Boys U16 National Team in yesterday’s send-off ceremony at Kanoa Resort, boosting the group’s morale, as it braces for the tough battle in the Asian Football Confederation U16 Championship 2020 Qualifiers in Indonesia.
“When you go out there, play for love for soccer, show you passion for the game. Whatever you will learn from the tournament, bring it back here and share them,” said Football Association of Maldives president Bassam Adeel Jaleel, who was among the guests at the send-off event, joining Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his wife, Diann, Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan, NMIFA Executive Committee members Patricia Coleman and Wesley Bogdan, NMIFA general secretary Ross Zapanta, and AFC International Relations Officer Purushottam Kattel.
Kattel also delivered a message in front of the 23 members of the team, encouraging them to focus on development and not to worry about the results.
“Forget about the results, play for the future. Thirty-four years ago, Japan did not get the results it wanted, but it continued playing and focused on the improvement of the team, so do the same. Go with hope and you will have a good future,” said Kattel.
The CNMI Boys U16 National Team, which has Joe Emil Antonio, Jerald Aquino, Gabriel Arkoh, Dev Bachani, Richard Castro, Jeremiah Diaz, Chad Escaner, Oliver Fajardo, Kohtaro Goto, Dane Hodgers, Xin Wen Jin, Akira Kadokura, Jose Rafael Lopez, Brian Lubao, Jim Kurt Maniago, Alex Megino, Ariel Narvaez, Daniel Mar Pablo, Jerick Quimzon, Andrew Sablan, Leo Takahashi, Merrick Toves, and Garrett Weaver as members, will be competing in the Group G qualifiers against China, the Philippines, Brunei, and host Indonesia. Completing the Commonwealth’s delegation to the Sept. 14 to 22 tournament in Jakarta are head coach Michiteru Mita, team manager Mikky Vargas, assistant coaches Jersh Angeles and Patrick McCallion, and goalkeeper coach and equipment manager Chris Aninzo.
Torres congratulated those who made the elite team and expressed confidence that the group will represent the CNMI well.
“You’ve made it this far and I am proud of all of you. When you hold that flag and you walk on that field, you represent all of us,” the governor said.
Jaleel, meanwhile was impressed with the number of people that showed up for the send-off ceremony, and he believes this kind of support is what drives a team to go all out when it competes.
“You have almost everyone here, the FA officials, parents, co-players, family members, friends, and government officials supporting the team. It’s amazing,” said the FAM president, whose national team is on Guam for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualification.
Tan, for this part, thanked AFC for continuously providing CNMI players the opportunity to participate in high-level tournaments.
“One of the key factors in our continued growth is the help we are getting from AFC. We keep on getting invites from AFC to compete in the region. Also, as I have been saying before every time we do this send-off ceremony, we also have to thank the players’ parents for their untiring support to the program and their children,” Tan said.
The CNMI Boys U16 National Team will leave Saipan for Jakarta on Sept. 12 and will have its first game in the qualifier on Sept. 14 against the Philippines.
“This is it. This is what we have been training hard for and we will do our best to play for the CNMI, play for our supporters, and show respect and love for the game,” said Toves, the team captain.