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NMIFA holds send-off ceremony for U20 women’s team

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association is sending a women’s team to compete in the Asian Football Confederation.

The NMI U20 Women’s National Soccer Team was sent off with good luck and well wishes for their trip to Palestine in the Middle East last Wednesday at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.

The team will compete in the AFC U20 Asian Cup Qualifiers from March 10 to March 12.

There are eight groups in the qualifiers and the top finisher in each group will advance to the 2024 AFC U20 Women’s Asian Cup to be hosted by Uzbekistan in March 2024.

NMI will have two matches, with the first team they will go up against is home team Palestine on March 10. They will then square off against Nepal on March 12. The team will begin their long journey on March 1 and will arrive on March 5.

The team consists of 20 players: Mia Abuan, Allyssya Angeles, Christina Atalig, Joselynn Atalig, Nathanette Blas, Erish Carreon, Jannah Casarino, Aubrey Castro, Audrey Castro, Andrei Chavez, Julie Chavez, Megan Elayda, Stephanie Flores, Tamia Kileleman-Hix, Tyana Kileleman-Hix, Deseha Mendiola, Pia Ngewakl, Sophia Quintos, Cassie Regan, and Rizza Relucio.

They will be joined by Luam Khen Koo, head of delegation; Chi Ming Tang, head coach; Mae Ito, assistant coach; Ronnel Ocanada, assistant coach; Mikky Vargas, communications manager; Hazel Mabasa, team doctor; Catherine Attao-Toves, team manager; and Yu Hung Lee, assistant team manager.

The ceremony was attended by Lt. Gov. David M. Apatang, NMIFA president Jerry Tan, Sen. Dennis Mendiola (R-Rota), NMIFA vice president Vickie Izuka, NMIFA executive committee member Alex Sablan, along with family and friends of the team.

On behalf of Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and himself, Apatang wished the team good luck and said “the CNMI should be proud of our women’s football team and should be proud of their great progress to enter competition away from home with other strong teams… I know you have trained hard and you will raise the CNMI flag with confidence and pride… We wish you many goals.”

Tan, for his part, said that these send-off ceremonies are always special when the teams are competing and traveling to far places.

He said the team has worked so hard to get where they are and “I want to recognize the sacrifice that everybody’s involved in preparing for a national team. It may seem easy but it took years of preparation. They have come out and spent so many hours here on this pitch.”

He added that he played against the team and had a taste of how good they were. Tan did mention how strong the other teams are considering they have a longer history of football, “so for NMI to be able to have the opportunity to compete, I’m really happy for our girls.”

He then thanked the parents for their support and said that many of the players came up in the grassroots soccer program since they were 9 years old or younger. He also thanked AFC for including NMI in the competition and also thanked the team officials for preparing the team and taking care of them.

Izuka, Sablan, and Mendiola—the father of goalkeeper Deseha Mendiola—also said their well wishes.

Published by Saipan Tribune - Feb 24 2023


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