More than a decade ago, CNMI female players’ experience in soccer was limited to suiting up in a co-ed league and running around makeshift pitches.
Today, the Commonwealth’s female players have a league of their own and even had an event solely dedicated to them—the Asian Football Confederation-led 2020 Women’s Football Day held last Sunday at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
“Women’s soccer has come a long way in the CNMI. I still remember playing in fields (Commonwealth Ports Authority and American Memorial Park) covered in potholes and how the Oleai pitch (Oleai Sports Complex) was the luxury field. I am so grateful that the federation (Northern Mariana Islands Football Association) continues to support the game and that so many women, like Catherine Toves, Patty Coleman, and Mae Ito, are the force behind the organization,” said Kathy Ruszala, who was among the nearly 200 female players that participated in last Sunday’s activities, including the 3 v 3 Jamboree.
“It was fun playing with friends, but more so watching Leilani (her daughter) enjoy the sport as much as I do. I also loved seeing all those girls and women come out for the event,” she added.
Ruszala played for Mama’s Still Kickin’ and teamed up with Ronda Gross, Shawna Brennfleck, and Robyn Spaeth in ruling the Masters Division of the 3 v 3 Jamboree, as they bested more than 10 teams.
Other division champions were Matansa (U9), TanHoldings Football Club Betde (U12), Soccer With Attitude (U15), and Power Puff Girls (Women’s Division). The division winners were recognized during a brief awards ceremony attended by NMIFA president Jerry Tan, general secretary Ross Zapanta, and NMIFA Women’s Committee chair Catherine Attao.
“It was a beautiful day to celebrate the success that NMIFA has had with the girls and women’s program,” Attao said.
“Everywhere you look, there were many smiles, laughter, encouragement, and great camaraderie. We hope that next year, we will see many new faces and more players joining the different leagues throughout the year,” added Attao, who also played in the Masters Division.
NMIFA and the members and officials of the women’s committee would like to thank the referees, scorekeepers, and volunteers who made the success of the 2020 AFC Women’s Football Day possible.