First grader Jasper Cabaobas enjoyed last Saturday’s AFC Grassroots Football Day so much that he already wants to sign up with a club to continue playing. “I like what we did today. I had so much fun and I would like to play again,” the Green Meadow School student said.
“You have to sign up in a club to play and learn new things,” Koblerville Elementary School’s J.J. Monthep answered as the two took a breather from the fun and games at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
Cabaobas promised his new found friend he will register and they headed back to the pitch to try another activity designed by the organizing Northern Mariana Islands Football Association in support of the Asian Football Confederation-sanctioned event.
Cabaobas and Monthep were among the 96 children in the 6 and 7 years old age group that participated in last weekend’s AFC Grassroots Football Day, learning the basics of the sport while having fun at the event.
“It was a great turnout. Actually, we did not expect to have a huge number of participants, but through the help of the schools, the parents, and clubs, and other volunteers, we’re able to have a lot of kids today. We’re also happy that we have children who are joining for the first time or trying the sport for the first time,” NMIFA general secretary Ross Zapanta said.
Anela Pangelinan was one of the first-timers and her mom, Maribel, was there to take video footages of this milestone. “I love seeing here enjoying what she does . I would want her to be more active, get out and play more, instead of staying at home and playing with her gadgets. Hopefully, this experience will encourage her to continue playing,” Maribel said.
Gene Weaver was also among the adults who watched how their kids enjoyed the various activities last weekend. “It was nice to hear from my grandson, Leighton, saying that he had fun doing the activities. Also, at this time and age when most of the kids are into gadgets and other electronics, it’s very important to keep them active by getting them involved in sports and other activities outdoor,” Weaver said.
Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School’s Tawny Barcinas, one of the volunteer coaches at the event, said seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and how they enthusiastically participated in every activity, made the long hours they spent at the field worth it. “The kids are very much into it. They are so excited and are eager to learn and try every activity,” Barcinas said.
Gavin Rogolifoi, one of the participants in the event, said he liked the shooting the obstacle course because he can practice his shooting skills and play at the same time. Other activities NMIFA lined up were the small sided game, treasure hunting, goal small sided game, hit the coach, and hit the cones.
Meanwhile, NMIFA president Jerry vowed to keep holding grassroots events in the CNMI. “We will continue our commitment and focus in our grassroots program because we want to have as many young children as we can get involved in the sport. We are aiming for a sustainable program and one way to do that is promote the sport among our young generation. I am very happy that today, a lot of children and their supportive parents showed up and enjoy the activities,” Tan said.
He added that playing soccer or joining similar activities is important to one’s health and well-being.
“Playing any sport, not only soccer, has great health benefits. Also, sports instill discipline to our children and help them learn teamwork and these two characteristics will help them succeed in life later. We will continue to provide similar opportunities to ours kids,” the NMIFA head said.