CNMI STRIKERS NOT GOING TO NOUMEA

The CNMI's Jason Schroeder, right, battles a Guamanian player for the ball during their game in the Marianas Cup last year at the Oleai Sports Complex. The CNMI pulled out from the 2011 Pacific Games. (Roselyn B. Monroyo) 
Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association president Michael White said that NMIFA, the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, decided to withdraw from the Games to avoid complications that would arise from its participation in the quadrennial meet.

NMIFA had initially informed NMASA that it will send men's and women's teams to New Caledonia and White then informed the Pacific Games Council that the CNMI will be competing in football.

However, the CNMI's participation to the Games hit a snag after NMASA was informed that the football competition in New Caledonia will be used as an Oceania Football Confederation qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and OFC, which is sponsoring the tournament, does not want a non-OFC member to compete in Noumea. The CNMI is affiliated with the Asian Football Confederation (associate member) and East Asian Football Federation (regular member).

“The CNMI had an absolute right to participate in the Pacific Games, and we were prepared to exercise that right.  However, to avoid further problems, NMIFA gracefully decided to withdraw from the tournament and respect OFC's decision and NMASA commends the local football association for doing the right thing,” White said during the NMASA meeting on Thursday at the conference room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

White added NMIFA will not be penalized for withdrawing from the competition as per the Games' rules and regulations. A team that confirmed participation to the Games in February, but pulled out in the last minute, must pay $1,000 penalty.  However, NMIFA will not be fined, as its withdrawal was done with the permission of the Pacific Games Council Executive Board. White also said the Council assured CNMI that it will be taking necessary steps so conflicts like these will not happen again.

NMIFA, through its General Secretary Ed Salas, who was present at the meeting, said they made the decision for the best interests of everybody.

“We don't want to risk our application with AFC and FIFA by joining the tournament, which eventually became a Oceania qualifier. We may face possible sanctions from AFC if we do that. Also, we don't want to cause problems for other nations competing in New Caledonia,” Salas said.

While the CNMI is now out of the woods, Guam is not. Guam is also affiliated with AFC and EAFF,and not OFC, but at press time had yet to inform the Council whether they will be pulling out or will still compete.




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