The CNMI U16 Boys National Team is all set for the AFC U16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers, expecting each match in Thailand to be an uphill battle.
“We prepared for this tournament for more than a year and we did almost everything to get the players ready. We kept training under the heavy rain, heat, and even during holiday. The boys gain a lot of confidence and they are excited to play in the tournament,” CNMI head coach and Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita said yesterday during a send-off ceremony for the Teen Ayuyus at Kanoa Resort.
Joining Mita at the sendoff were assistant coach Jershwin Angeles, team manager Rodwealth Espana, physiotherapist Hazel Mabasa, and the 20-member Teen Ayuyus. The national youth squad is made up of midfielders Razeff Altamirano, Taka Borja, John Guiller Canape, Mark Esalan, Sebastien Manabat, Jhoey Noble, Ian Maniago, Joshua Mendez, and John Michael Rojas; defenders Joseph Rasa, Rinto Takahashi, Terrance Montenegro, Eun Syu Hahn, Ichiro Borja, Reginald Pascual, and, Kirt Andon; forward Kaden Church; and goalies Jason Quimzon, Jamin Elliott, and Floyd Muna. Also part of the team are goalkeeper coach Jonathan Takano and physiotherapist Yuki Masuda.
The squad will be facing the host, Laos, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste in the Group G of the qualifier that will run from Sept. 16 to 24 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. Mita picked Thailand as the favorite in their group, but believes their three other opponents are equally tough, too.
“To be honest, all teams are tough for us. The toughest country is Thailand. Thailand is an advance football country in the ASEAN region and the Thais are runners-up in the recent AFF U15 tournament. They beat Indonesia and Laos in that tournament. But, you never know what will happen in a football game. Take the case of Iceland—its population is only 340,000, but it beat England in Euro2016 quarter finals,” Mita said.
The head coach added that the Teen Ayuyus must not hesitate and be afraid of their opponents because they prepared well for the Asian Football Confederation-sanctioned tournament.
“We will do our best to bring the best results and we want to give the CNMI people hope and dream that even though we are from small islands, we can do it. Also, we will play for the development and the future of CNMI football,” Mita said.
NMIFA president Jerry Tan, who led the well-wishers for the squad, seconded the NMIFA technical director’s points.
“Showed them what you got and represent our islands well,” said Tan, reminding the team to take every game as a learning experience.
The NMIFA official also thanked the Teen Ayuyus, their coaching staff, and those who did not make 20-player cut for their commitment. Tan made special mention of the players’ parents too, recognizing their support to their children and asking them to keep allowing the Teen Ayuyus to train and be part of NMIFA’s program.
“We have more tournaments to come and we want your children to continue to learn and represent the CNMI,” Tan said.