The CNMI Boys U15 National Team is peaking right heading into the Asian Football Confederation U16 Championship 2020 Qualifiers.
The squad is on the final stage of its preparation for the AFC competition that will run from Sept. 14 to 22 in Jakarta, Indonesia and head coach Michiteru Mita likes the progress his crew has been showing.
“The condition of the team as a whole is getting better each day. We are trying everything we can, like practicing on a natural grass field (Oleai Sports Complex) and having physical fitness training at the peace park (Gov. Eloy S. Inos Peace Park) to get ready,” said Mita.
The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director and the 22 members of the national squad started doing drills at the Oleai pitch instead of using the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville last week and will continue to do so this week.
“We started practicing last week on the natural grass field in Oleai because the AFC tournament will be played at a natural grass field. Players are noticing the differences from the artificial turf, for example, how the ball bounces and how the pass goes,” Mita said.
“We are quite fortunate to be able to practice on both artificial turf at NMISTC and natural grass at Oleai, and we are grateful for the support from the community (groups which moved their practices/games to give way to the Teen Ayuyus). Players get better adjusting to different conditions of the international tournament,” he added.
Mita also took note of how the team’s preparation for the AFC qualifier got a boost after some of their players competed in the Northern Marianas Invitational Football Tournament and challenged two teams from China—Beijing Elite Core Football Club and Beijing 97 United Football Club.
“Six U15 players joined the tournament and played against the Beijing teams. It was a great opportunity for them to feel and play in the atmosphere of international tournament with a lot of supporters and spectators. Other U15 players also came and supported the tournament, so they also got to experience the excitement of the international games,” Mita said.
“We hear that football is very popular in Indonesia, and a lot of spectators are expected at the AFC U16 tournament. It was great that our U15 players had a glimpse of what it will be like to play in that kind of setting,” the NMIFA official added.
In Indonesia, the Teen Ayuyus will also duel China, the Philippines, and Brunei besides the host squad. The CNMI bets will depart Saipan for Jakarta on Sept. 12, leaving them with a little over a week to get ready for the Group G qualifying tournament.
“The next 10 days leading up to the AFC tournament will be important to maintain the players’ high spirits and good conditioning, so we will need to focus on individual conditioning. I am reminding our players to eat well and get enough rest and sleep. This is basic, but extremely important for conditioning and getting the players ready for international travel and matches. We are also counting on support from their families, as conditioning starts at home,” Mita said.