The CNMI U14 National Football Team players pose with supporters and NMIFA general secretary Ed Salas, right, at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport early this week after arriving from their stint in the 2012 Boys Asian Football Confederation U14 Festival in Beijing, China. (Contributed Photo) 
No less than Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan heaped tons of praise for the CNMI U14 National Football Team's performance in the 2012 Boys Asian Football Confederation U14 Festival in Beijing, China.

“I am very pleasantly surprised about the performance and result of our U14 Boys team in Beijing last week. Being the newest and smallest FA (football association) of AFC (Asian Football Confederation), two wins and two draws is an amazing result,” said Tan in an email to the Saipan Tribune.

For the record, the CNMI U14 team beat Chinese-Taipei, 2-0, and Macau, 1-0. It also forced draws against host China, 1-1, and Mongolia, 2-2.

It did lose five games, twice to Guam (2-0 and 4-0), once against South Korea (2-0), and were thoroughly beaten by AFC powerhouses Japan (18-0) and North Korea (9-0).

Tan credited NMIFA for consistently holding spring and fall youth leagues in the development and improvement of Commonwealth soccer players.

“These leagues allow our youth players to develop their skills over the past years. Having professional coaches to train the team over the past months is also crucial to take the team to a new level. Commitment from the players and support from the parents are also key factors,” he said.

Tan said the next step now is to help local football clubs recruit and develop youth players in each age group and this can only be done by providing them top-flight coaches.

“NMIFA must continue to support every club with coaching clinics so we can develop a big pool of qualified coaches. This allows NMIFA to select the best players to be our national players. Having the opportunity to participate in EAFF (East Asia Football Federation) and AFC competitions are also very important as our players can be exposed to the high-standard of competition. This will inspire them to train harder in order to improve and to be competitive in the international level,” he said.

Tan also extended his gratitude to the players, their families, and NMIFA and visiting coaches for all the help they gave to the CNMI U14 National Football Team, which proved crucial in its success in Beijing.

“I would like to thank all the players for their commitment to daily training, to thank all the parents for their support, to thank Chelsea coaches for their professional training, and finally to thank coach Seki (coach Kiyoshi Sekiguchi) for being the head coach in guiding this team in Beijing. I know the performance of our U15 boys last year in Taipei and U14 boys last week in Beijing has inspired many other youth players to be more committed to playing soccer and to train harder in order to become future national players. I also want to thank all the clubs for their efforts in developing our youth players in the past years. NMIFA will continue to do its best to continue the development of soccer in the CNMI and I can say that soccer's future is looking very bright!”

NMIFA general secretary Ed Salas, meanwhile, reminded that the Beijing tournament being a festival, scores and wins and losses were not officially recorded.

Nonetheless, he confirmed that coaches and football associations were taking scores for their own purposes and the CNMI's 2-5-2 win-loss-draw record caught a lot of them by surprise.

“This was our first AFC Festival and the officials and teams were quite surprised with our results. As a debut, I believe we gave a good impression. Our boys played hard throughout the festival and I believe also surprised themselves. They never gave up and maintained a positive attitude,” Salas said in an email to the Saipan Tribune.

However, more than their ability in the pitch, the NMIFA official was more impressed by the CNMI team's attitude on and off it.

“The boys also exhibited 'fair play' as evidenced by getting at least seven green cards. The boys had fun while playing but was also a great learning experienced for them. What was also so impressive was the friendship they had with teams like Macau, Mongolia, and DPR Korea (North Korea). Some of our boys came home with jerseys they exchanged,” he said.

The CNMI U14 National Football Team was made up of Dakota Hall, Jordan Butcher-Wade, William Hinson II, Joel Fruit, and Kennedy Izuka. Completing the team are Carlson Cruzat, Alan Hinson, Christopher Aninzo, Daniel and John Auther, Julian Pellegrino, Won-Young Kim, Jeremie Tanghal, Gideon Borja, John Masga, Louie Calayag, Emmanuel Aniana, Ryu Tanzawa, Moris Villanueva, Joshua Galarion, James Ermitanio, and Wataru Takima.


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