AFC team impressed with football development in the Northern Mariana Islands
KUALA LUMPUR: A two-member AFC Vision Asia team recently visited Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, upon the request of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association (NMIFA) to help start the Vision Asia development programme in the commonwealth, which is about 200km north of Guam.
The AFC team held meetings with the Executive Committee of NMIFA to formulate a development strategy to strengthen football on the islands, besides visiting several training facilities in Saipan, an Under-12
football festival, and the training sessions of the Northern Mariana Islands men’s and women’s national teams who are preparing for matches against Guam in the 2008 Mariana Cup.
NMIFA President Jerry Tan was delighted with the visit.
“As a new and developing football association we need benchmarks on how to develop our local football,” said Tan.
“The visit by the Vision Asia team has helped clarify many areas for us. Now the Executive Committee is also fully aware of what needs to be implemented for us to bring our football forward.”
The AFC officials also met the Governor Benigno R. Fitial and discussed football development in the commonwealth.
Since its foundation in 2005, the NMIFA have made many inroads in developing a sport that was virtually non-existent on the baseball centric islands. The NMIFA has organized multiple projects and tournaments for men’s, women’s and youth football as well as coaching and referee seminars.
There are nearly 500 youth aged 4 to 15 currently playing in NMIFA youth leagues, and each of the 15 public schools in Saipan have received a set of goalposts from the football authorities.
With the assistance of Vision Asia, the NMIFA is looking to launch an elite level league competition. There are currently four clubs and the NMIFA has been advised to establish four more so that the elite league can commence.
A schools league is scheduled to kick off in August 2008 and Vision Asia will provide administration, coaching and referee courses for the successful organization of the program.
The Vision Asia team also advised the NMIFA on bringing their statutes in line with international standards and developing their organization structures.