Friday, March 11, 2022
When we started the Northern Marianas Football Association’s (NMIFA) soccer program in 2005, we never expected to see the number of youth players develop and increase significantly in the last 17 years. We started with only 100 youth players from ages 4 to 15, and today, our total soccer membership, including adults, has grown to about 1,600 residents, which represents 4% of our local population. Our future hope is to introduce, develop and grow the sport for the grassroots youth community while adding a fun, affordable, organized, and healthy alternative to the limited extracurricular options for young children in the Marianas.
Watching the youth soccer players grow up playing soccer, give their all with training and development, compete at the highest levels as Northern Mariana Islands national team members against countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Mongolia, Guam and other East and West Asian countries, has been truly astonishing to witness. NMIFA has seen 20 of its soccer players move on to play for college teams, including five soccer players who committed in 2022. This shows the success of the player pathway that NMIFA’s program created. Soccer has been an integral part of some players’ lives and has helped them to build confidence and set the foundation for leadership roles.
When the association first started, our initial goal was to build one professional full-size pitch and continue to supplement with the existing schools and public fields. Our soccer training facility became a reality in 2018, and the recent groundbreaking of the NMIFA’s second pitch is beyond all our expectations. Planned for completion in 2022, the second pitch will open more opportunities for domestic and international youth and adult soccer activities and competitions. We will be in a better position to promote sports tourism and provide a facility for the community to enjoy and be proud of.
The fast development of our soccer programs and our ability to reach out to more age groups within the community would not have been possible without the NMIFA’s collaboration and partnership with the CNMI government. The CNMI government also crosses many branches and departments including Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and his team, the executive and legislative branches, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Public School System, and the Northern Marianas Sports Association, to name a few. Thanks to the wonderful support of Gov. Torres, the NMI Soccer Training Center (NMISTC) became a reality and a proud home for our soccer community.
With this development philosophy, community support, and all the generous sponsorships and donations from our businesses and family of international soccer organizations, we hope to continue our mission to enable future generations to learn and love the sport. We want soccer to be a family activity, so we’re continuing to work on how to accommodate different members of our community to promote the goals of having fun and living a healthy lifestyle. We want the community to take advantage and play with family, friends, and colleagues. For some of the very passionate and skilled players, we wish to continue to create more opportunities to represent the CNMI flag and compete at the highest international levels.
Over the last few years, we have seen a growing portion of the community engaging in various outdoor activities such as running and biking among others. This shows us that our residents want to be more active and healthier. We highly encourage our community members to be active and explore activities that may be of interest to them.
GCEA’s Public-Private Partnership has many activities to get involved in as well. You can stay active while giving back to the community. Many of our football clubs are PPP partners who are taking care of the Garapan Core medians, Guma Sakman medians, Garapan Intersection medians, and the Koblerville village. The PPP program is truly inspirational and builds personal and organizational pride for those who participate. We look forward to seeing more participation from other sports organizations and the community at large.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at email@example.com.
By Vickie Izuka
Vickie Izuka was re-elected to be the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s Vice President in Nov. 2020 and is the Vice President and Area Manager at First Hawaiian Bank.