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NMI coach sees positive response from players

GUAM-When Northern Marianas Islands Football Association technical director and NMI Men’s National Team head coach Michiteru Mita walked through the waiting area at the Guam Football Association National Training Center, he saw his players huddling and having a discussion.

“Are you guys talking about last night’s game?” Mita asked.

“Yes coach,” the NMI Men’s U20 National Team players answered in unison.

Mita nodded as he proceeded to the pitch to prepare for their morning training session, less than 24 hours after the squad bowed to Guam anew in their friendly match Sunday night.

Win or lose, this is the kind of response that Mita wants to see from NMI players after every game. Analyze what happened in the match, see what went wrong, correct them in the next game, and continue to learn from the experience.

“When we play, it would be nice to get results or win. However, it is more important how we build and develop NMI football and the team using this opportunity (having friendlies with Guam). These matches and the training camp will allow us to continue working to improve the NMI national team’s style of play,” said Mita.

The NMI completed the first two friendlies (U20 and men’s matches) against the hosts over the weekend and was scheduled to have the second men’s national match last Tuesday night, while the series will conclude today with the U20 crew taking on their counterparts in the 7:30pm game.

The NMI’s Richard Steele, right, and Guam’s Nicolai Medina chase the ball during their friendly game last Sunday at the Guam Football Association National Training Center. (ROSELYN B. MONROYO )

“Playing against Guam or any other country gives our players the opportunity to learn different standards in international and domestic football. What usually works on Saipan may not work in an intense game here because the pressure and pace are so different so the boys have to adjust and find a way to keep up with Guam,” Mita added.

Guam coach hopes for more training matches Meanwhile, Guam head coach Sang Hoon Kim said they are using the friendly matches to integrate younger players to the men’s program and evaluate their performance.

“In the past two matches, we’ve been able to integrate the top players from the younger age levels to play in the higher-level matches, including the match against the NMI Men’s National Team. Match experience is very valuable for our players and moving forward, we need more of these opportunities,” said Kim, who is also the technical director of the GFA Men’s Program.

“We were able to see good performances from many of our younger players, particularly a handful who were selected to play up for the match against the NMI Men’s National Team for the first time. The first two results favored Guam, but we still have much more work to do. I believe that the players are now even more focused and motivated to train harder for upcoming matches,” he added.

Both Kim and Mita acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to their respective programs so having training matches between the two countries and getting support from GFA and NMIFA are important in bringing their players back on track.

“COVID-19 has really affected football development in Guam, with no competitive league matches in Guam since March 2020. We are moving farther and farther behind our regional counterparts with the lack of matches, so we welcomed the invitation from NMI for matches during its training camp in Guam. Having our domestic squad of players take part in these matches has given coaches the opportunity to see their performance in real match situations, and similarly for NMI coaches,” Kim said.

“This is a great experience and opportunity for everyone since our national teams haven’t been into an international trip since the 2019 Marianas Cup,” Mita said.

Published by Saipan Tribune - Feb 23 2022


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