The CNMI Boys U15 National Team welcomes the big challenges it will be facing when it plays in the East Asian Football Federation U15 Boys Tournament in Xianghe, China this month.
“The EAFF U15 is a developmental tournament and all players, including substitutes must play. Our first priority is to get experience, learn, and make use of this opportunity for players development, as they are the future of the men’s national team,” said head coach and Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita in a message sent to Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Mita is in Japan for the CNMI Men’s National Team pool’s training camp and will join the U15 squad in China next week, as the EAFF-sanctioned tournament will run from July 21 to 29. The U15 national squad has midfielder Razeff Altamirano, Taka Borja, Ian Karl Maniago, Floyd Muna, Reginald Pascual, Brandon Tenorio, Merrick Toves, and John Joseph Villagomez, defenders John Ezekiel Canape, Brian Lubao, Daniel Mar Pablo, Rinto Takahashi, and Elijah Villarmero, forwards Oliver Fajardo and Rintaro Miyawaki, and goalkeepers Jonathan Mindanao, John Martin Palad, and Jason Quimzon as members.
NMIFA held a send-off ceremony yesterday for the U15 crew along with the CNMI Boys U16 National Team that will head to the Philippines for the Tuloy XO Cup, which will run from July 31 to Aug. 5.
“Japan and China are our toughest opponents and it’s a great opportunity for us to play against the Asian giants. Our strategy is play our soccer, which is not only about defending but also attacking to score goals and win the game. We will play against the giants and in all the games we will try to score,” said Mita.
Besides Japan and China, the Teen Ayuyus will also duel Chinese-Taipei, Mongolia, and Macau. South Korea, North Korea, Guam, and Hong Kong complete the tournament and they are in Pool B.
Mita said the U15 players are doing well in their training sessions with the help of assistant coach Jershwin Angeles and CNMI Men’s National Team captain Jon Takano.
“We are all enjoying the real quality new soccer pitch. The boys take this tournament very seriously as they are working hard every day. We are improving on team understanding and chemistry. Players try to understand what do we do in attacking, defending, and transition moment. They try to maximize team play,” Mita said.
“We still need to improve our quality techniques—with players able to play in any situation under pressure or less space. We don’t have many opportunities to play against strong opponents, so every time we go out, we always think we our playing against strong opponents,” the head coach added.
Mita will also call the shots for the U16 team, which is made up of Altamirano, Taka Borja, Canape, Lubao, Mindanao, Miyawaki, Quimzon, Takahashi, Toves, Kirt Andon, Thaiphi Austria, Ichiro Borja, Kaden Church, Mark Esalan, Sebastien Manabat, Joshua Mendez, John Michael Rojas, Joshua Waldo, and Richard Waldo Jr. The head coach is anticipating a lot of tight matches in the XO Cup.
“All international tourneys are very tough for us. Even Philippine football is improving a lot these days. This tournament is going to be tough for us, but our goal is to be champions,” Mita said.
“The U16 boys got a very good experience in last year AFC U16. We lost a lot of goals, but at same time the boys learned a lot. They knew the real international level of play,” he added.
In the XO Cup, the CNMI will play against Luenthai Soccer School, Tuloy sa Don Bosco, Makati Football Club, Don Bosco Technical College Cebu, and Chelsea FC Soccer School (Hong Kong).
Meanwhile, NMIFA Executive Committee member Patty Coleman led the well-wishers for the two youth national teams yesterday at the NMI Soccer Training Center and thanked all the people who made the CNMI’s participation to the two off-island tournaments possible.
“This is an incredible opportunity for players of our small islands to play against countries with millions of people. Show them the CNMI fighting spirit and cherish every single moment of the tournament,” Coleman said.