The CNMI national teams welcomed the news on the Asian Football Confederation getting ready for the schedule of events for 2021, as they continue to put in the work to prepare for off-island competitions.
The Commonwealth’s players were slated to compete in several tournaments this year, including the EAFF E-1 Men’s Football Championship 2021 Preliminary Round 1 and two AFC qualifying events, but these events were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These competitions maybe rescheduled next year, as Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, during its 10th Ordinary Congress last Friday, announced that AFC has started discussions on the calendar of events for 2021.
NMIFA technical director and CNMI Men’s National Team head coach Michiteru Mita said this development is good news to the Commonwealth’s players who are still training despite the pandemic and the uncertainties surrounding their scheduled off-island tournaments.
“The men’s and women’s national team players and junior academy players continue to work hard with a commitment for future tournaments and their respective goals or objectives. Normally, it is very hard to keep training without the local leagues and tournaments because soccer players practice for games. But they understand the situation, and they also know the COVID-19 situation in Guam, so they keep practicing and appreciate the opportunity given for national teams to continue training,” Mita said.
The CNMI men’s and women’s national squads resumed training in June, but with restrictions as they have to strictly follow the safety measures NMIFA and the local and federal government are implementing against the COVID-19 virus. The Junior National Academy, on the other hand, started its recruitment of new players in August, while U17 and U19 boys teams, and the U16 girls are also having their regular practices at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
“We try to create a training environment that is closer to international standards. Most of our current national players learned from past international tournaments so they know the quality techniques, speed, power, and the decisions needed during the game,” the Blue Ayuyus coach said.
“They make use of the experience and try to improve these aspects even in a limited environment during this pandemic. Each national team has discussions among players after every training to reflect the day’s training and they always compare the quality and intensity of our training with the international level,” Mita added.
The NMIFA technical director commended the CNMI players for their efforts and dedication in training, but pointed out that they really need to compete in actual games to be better prepared for off-island tournaments.
“We continue training. This is a good advantage for maintaining football fitness and also it is good for team bonding. But we have no league and competitions and we cannot have training camp now. Also some countries have resumed their domestic leagues so it is hard to say we have advantage because we’ve been training despite the pandemic.
NMIFA, during last Friday’s gathering, said it will try to find ways to slowly, but safely, hold regular matches at the NMISTC.
“Soccer players need to play as many games as possible. Hopefully, the COVID-19 situation would be better and we can resume local leagues in the near future so we can bring back the game environment. Our national teams will continue to work hard no matter what situation is to prepare for future tournaments,” Mita said.