A CNMI striker battles a Guam defender for the ball during the 4th Marianas Football Cup held in June this year at the Oleai Sports Complex Field. (Roselyn B. Monroyo) 
“The NMIFA Organizing Committee for Competitions has met several times to discuss our participation. We are very much interested in sending both teams, but it may be just the men's team due to lack of qualified members for the women's team,” NMIFA General Secretary Ed Salas said in an email to Saipan Tribune.

“Our participation is dependent on our ability to send a competitive team based on eligibility and ability to finance the trip. NMIFA can only finance 50 percent of the cost for each player to go. The OCC has sent out a survey to be completed by the players and the results will be known next week. The survey included questions about eligibility and players' ability to finance 50 percent of the trip,” Salas said.

Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association, which is in charge of the whole CNMI delegation to New Caledonia, has set the cost of the Pacific Games participation at $2,200. However, each participant will shoulder only $1,800 and payments can be made on installment basis. For each month, starting this December until April, each participant must pay $360.

The cost of the New Caledonia trip could still go down if NMASA gets financial assistance from the government. NMASA had already sent a letter to the Legislature in October, appealing for financial aid for the CNMI delegation, but as of NMASA's monthly meeting early this month, lawmakers have yet to respond to the request.

“We are interested but still waiting for the final recommendation of the OCC since the executive committee has already approved to send a team if we can have a squad based on eligibility and other factors,” Salas said.

Eligibility will be less of a problem for NMIFA, as the Executive Board of the Pacific Games Council had included football in the list of sports that will adopt international federation (IF) rules for next year's competition.

This means players who had already represented the CNMI in IF-sanctioned tournaments are allowed to compete in the Pacific Games next year.

The CNMI is an associate member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and a full-time member of the East Asian Football Federation. In the last two years, the CNMI had participated in EAFF events.

The tournament in Noumea could be the CNMI strikers' first in multi-sports competition. The Pacific Games will run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 10 with 28 sports lined up for the quadrennial event.


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