Second regular soccer pitch opens
Four years after the opening of the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville, an additional second regular pitch was inaugurated Saturday afternoon and was immediately put into use in a game between the U6 teams of MP United FC and Kanoa Football Club.
The new pitch mirrors the regular-sized pitch built in Phase 1, which is an artificial 80 x 120-yard grass turf with under drainage, team benches with clear covers, and lighting.
The pitch was part of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s NMISTC expansion project that broke ground last March worth $2 million.
In Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres pledged $750,000 to the project.
Aside from Torres, also in attendance during the ribbon-cutting ceremony were first lady Diann Torres, House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), Bishop Ryan Jimenez, NMIFA president Jerry Tan, the NMIFA Executive Committee, other NMIFA officials, Public School System athletic director Nick Gross, the sport’s stakeholders, and children and parents.
Tan said the reason for the expansion is because the soccer program in the CNMI is “going very well not only with the youth… but also the men and women.”
He recognized the large number of women and soccer moms who not only watch, but play the sport and invited those who have yet to play, to come out and “give it a try.”
He sees that there are about 18 players in a team in a 7v7 or 8v8 game, with the rest on the bench, so with the new field, they will be able to accommodate more players, teams, and games. He invites and “encourage[s] everyone in the community to give soccer a try… It is fun to play and [you can] make a lot of new friends.”
But with that, “I witnessed the growth. Men, boys, we’re always very active; we want to play, but it’s really nice to see more and more girls and women. This is actually something… FIFA has been encouraging and providing funding to support because they realize that most of the players are men. They want to see a lot more women to step up and play. We are very happy with the youth, we always have the boys, but now the women are growing in the program. So, I want to… thank and congratulate all the women out there. You can recruit your sister and your mom, whoever to come out and play also. This program is for everyone.”
He also made a trip down memory lane when the NMISTC was partially damaged due to Super Typhoon Yutu right after its grand opening in July 2018.
Torres, in his speech, thanked the everyone that is always out representing the CNMI in tournaments, “congratulations and thank you for always doing your best.” He thanked Tan and the NMIFA team for continuing what you do for the community.”
The group then made their way across the first pitch and onto the entrance of the new regular-sized pitch, where Bishop Jimenez led the group in a prayer; the group then cut the ribbon to allow people to enter and Jimenez to bless the field.
Last Saturday’s event coincided with the continuation of the Take Care Youth League Fall 2022, where hundreds of children are participating.