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Win-win for NMI, Guam players

At the end of every game, there would be losers and winners. But that’s not the case for the NMI national team’s training camp in Guam, as the two islands considered the event as win-win for both programs of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association and the Guam Football Association.

The two sides’ national team pools made up of more than 100 players had eight training matches last week at the GFA National Training Center. The NMI team’s women’s crew won three games and had one draw, while the men’s squad got one victory and three losses. Besides the training matches, the NMI players had practice sessions for five days and worked on their individual and teams’ skills and developed and executed game strategies. Guam, on the other hand, was able to provide its players opportunities to compete—something that their teams have been wishing for since the program has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

NMI Men’s U20 National Team players perform warm-up exercises for their training session last week during the training camp at the Guam Football Association National Training Center. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

“It’s been two years since we had competition, so these training matches for both teams truly benefit both organizations. By getting back to the pitch, players will get to familiarize themselves again with how competitive matches work, with how their teammates play. We need more of these. We are hungry to play. The NMI will learn from playing here and we will learn from them as well,” said GFA president Tino San Gil.

The NMI’s Summer Manahane steps in on defense to steal possession from a Guam player during their friendly match at the Guam Football Association National Training Center last week. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Sang Hoon Kim, GFA technical director and Guam Men’s National Team head coach reflected on Guam’s gains from the training matches, particularly for their upcoming men’s national players.

“Congratulations to the U17 MNT players who made their first appearance for the senior national team. Some of the debutants are players who graduated from the GFA National Academy and were actually members of our youngest age group. The successful performances on the field are a testament of what full time, year-round training programs can achieve if they are permanent and supported by stakeholders,” Kim said.

Kim’s counterpart in the NMI—NMIFA technical director and men’s head coach Michiteru Mita—sees his players having a better understanding on what it takes to level up with the teams in the region and having more motivation to get better and prove to themselves and to everyone that they could do it.

“Yes, the training camp just ended, but this is also the time to start working harder to further go to the next level. Using our experiences from the training camp will help us continue building and developing NMI football,” Mita said.

Players Jireh Yobech and Pia Ngewakl said that the opportunity to play off-island is critical in their preparations to get back to either AFC or EAFF competitions. The training matches against Guam players allow them to assess their performance as an individual and as a team.

NMI Women’s U18 National Team goalkeeper Dehesa Mendiola rolls the ball back to coach Angie Ito after a save during a warm-up drill. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

NMIFA president Jerry Tan acknowledged the NMI national team pool’s relentless efforts in training at home despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the NMIFA leadership wanted to make sure the group will have the needed support to stay on track with the national team program.

NMI Women’s National Team players celebrate in front of their supporters who flew in from Saipan after beating the Guam Masakada, 1-0, in their friendly game last week at the Guam Football Association National Training Center. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

“Our coaches and players have been working so hard for more than two years even during the pandemic and have received continued support from their clubs and parents. So, it is very important that the NMIFA do its best to help the national players and teams while they wait for international competitions to resume,” said Tan.

The NMIFA president also thanked the GFA for the strong partnership that has been instrumental in the development of the NMI national program. (PR)

Published by Saipan Tribune - Mar 02 2022


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