The CNMI national teams’ performance in the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2019 Round 1 in Mongolia will bring a lot to the table as far as the growth of soccer on the islands is concerned.
“Our young players look up to our national team members and by seeing how they played in the tournament in Mongolia and the positive results they were able to produce, these young players will be inspired to stay in the program in the hope of someday, they could also play for the CNMI,” Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan told Saipan Tribune in an interview last Tuesday at Kanoa Resort during the send-off ceremony for the CNMI U16 Women’s National Team.
“Coming back to Saipan with positive results from an off-island tournament may also generate interest in the sport from new players. With these in mind, we are looking at the continued growth of soccer in the CNMI and getting more children involved in a healthy activity,” Tan added.
The CNMI Women’s National Team finished third in the East Asian Football Federation-organized tournament last week, forcing Macau and Guam to scoreless draws after losing to Mongolia in the first game. The Luem Khen Koo-coached coached CNMI led the hosts in the first half, 2-0, before dropping the opener. Despite the sorry loss, the Commonwealth bets regrouped and held their ground in the last two matches.
The CNMI Men’s National Team, on the other hand, bowed to Guam and Mongolia, and nearly defeated Macau if not for a controversial non-call before settling for a 1-1 draw.
“I could not be more proud of our teams. I watched our last two games with the men’s playing against Macau and the women’s against Guam and in both matches, we came very close to winning. They played very well, hustled for every ball, and showed their opponents that they continue to learn how to play better even under one of the toughest weather conditions,” the NMIFA head said.
In the Blue Ayuyus’ game against Mongolia, a hailstorm stopped the match midway in the second half. Then in the women’s team’s match versus Macau, it was raining all throughout the game and temperature was below 10 degrees Celsius.
“ I am glad I was able to watch our last two games. We faced Macau (men’s) and Guam (women’s), which were supposed to be strong teams, and we were able to force them into a draw and almost got a win,” Tan said.
“When the tournament ended, I was approached by the officials of other teams and they congratulated our team. They witnessed that we keep improving after each competition,” he added.
The NMIFA president thanked the coaches and other team officials for preparing the two nationals teams for the EAFF tournament. Tan also extended his appreciation to all the people, including the players’ parents, who made the group’s trip to Mongolia possible.