Monday, April 21, 2008
AFC pleased with NMIFA programs
By Jon Perez
Asian Football Conference Vision Asia division development officer Biplav Gautam, left, and AFC development officer Keita Sugihara, third left, join Northern Mariana Islands Football Association officials led by president Jerry Tan, fourth left, for a group photo at the NMIFA office at the TSL building on Saturday. Others in photo are Wes Bogdan, second left, and Vicki Izuka. (Jon Perez) The rapid development of football in the CNMI brought smiles to two Asian Football Confederation officials, which were on island this weekend to assess the programs started by the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association.
AFC development officer Kaita Sugihara and AFC Vision Asia Division development officer Biplav Gautam arrived on Saipan last Thursday and spent Friday and Saturday meeting with NMIFA officials to get an update of its football programs.
Sugihara said he and Gautam even visited the training sessions conducted by the men's and women's national teams in preparation for this weekend's Marianas Cup against Guam.
They also witnessed the Youth Football Festival at San Antonio Elementary School and inspected some of the facilities and venues in football games. Sugihara and Gautam visited the three schools used in football games-Hopwood Junior High School, Saipan Southern High School, and Garapan Elementary School-as well as the Oleai Field inside the Susupe Sports Complex, CPA Field, and the one at American Memorial Park.
“A lot has changed since the first time we came here in October 2006. We can see a lot of positive things in NMIFA's programs. We are very much impressed with the development,” said Sugihara.
Gautam added NMIFA's program is centered on developing the sport at the grassroots level and establishing clubs. “NMIFA is geared towards developing the youth with the establishment of clubs, which is essential part of every football program.”
Sugihara and Gautam said from establishing the youth, men's, and women's programs NMIFA is now geared toward strengthening the club system.
“NMIFA and football on Saipan rapidly change in a short time compared to other countries that are starting with their own program,” Sugihara said.
Gautam added, “They [NMIFA] already have four clubs, which have their own committees and active volunteers. Clubs are important to football development.”
The two also met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and played pickup games with some of the local teams before again meeting with NMIFA officials to further discuss their developmental plans and programs.