Hundreds of young players greeted the East Asian Football Federation Executive Committee led by EAFF president His Excellency Du Zhaocai, as the visiting officials took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the NMI Soccer Training Center Expansion Project last Friday in Koblerville, Saipan.
The warm welcome was the players and the rest of the NMI soccer family’s way of showing gratitude to the EAFF for its support to the program through the years, including the assistance the federation has provided for the construction of the NMISTC’s second regulation size pitch.
“I am very glad to join the NMIFA and the NMI football community for the opening of the second full size pitch. The EAFF is delighted to contribute to the construction. Thank you for having us in this wonderful occasion,” said Du in front of the nearly 50 teams from eight Northern Mariana Islands Football Association-member clubs that played in a youth festival to mark the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Players parents and other supporters of the program were also present to greet the visitors and watched the matches.
Du was joined in the ribbon cutting ceremony by EAFF vice president Kozho Tashima and Hanjin Chun, EAFF Committee members Chris Wang, Ganbaatar Amgalanbaatar, Valentino San Gil, Jerry Tan, and Korea Football Association president Mong Gyu Chung in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Guam Football Association Executive Committee also grace the occasion.
“With the new pitch, I am confident that the development of NMI football will continue. The EAFF will continue to support the NMIFA and we hope to come back here to see the full benefit of the new facilities,” the EAFF president added.
Seven-year-old Venice Mangulabnan was one of the young players who welcomed the Executive Committee. She plays for Matansa Football Club U8 team and is very happy to experience playing in the new pitch.
“Me and my teammates are excited to run and chase the ball. We saw players from other teams also having fun. There’s a lot of us here enjoying the game with our parents watching us. Thank you NMIFA, thank you EAFF for giving us a new pitch to play.”
Meanwhile, NMIFA president Jerry Tan was overwhelmed to see the reception of the players and the NMI soccer community to the visiting EAFF executives at the ceremony.
“They’ve been playing for hours under the heat, but still have all the energy to greet and give our honored guests a round of applause. One might think what the players and even the parents are clapping for that hard. But for me, I know. They understand the big help that the EAFF has extended to the NMIFA through the years and that assistance has been translated into the programs that benefit the players and the rest of the NMI football community. The warm welcome is an expression of gratefulness to the EAFF family,” Tan said.
“Without the support of the EAFF and other organizations, we will not have this facility to enjoy. We can’t do it alone,” the NMIFA president added.