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NMI soccer coaches: Then and now

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EPISODE 4 of “Footcast with Norman Del Rosario” featured former NMI coaches Sugao Kambe and Kiyoshi Sekiguchi as well as current head coach Michuteru Mita who all shared their memorable moments with the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association.

Coach Kambe took the NMI women's national team members under his wing in 2009. He was their coach when the Commonwealth scored its first-ever goal against Guam in an international match. He also coached the NMI men's team that managed to score against Macau on Guam. “I will always remember those moments — I was so happy; I will never forget,” he said.

Coach Sekiguchi came in after Kambe's contract ended and was responsible for the NMI men's first international victory against Macau. “I still remember the first men's national team training session. Ten players were older than me. I was very surprised.” Sekiguchi coached the team in 2010-2011 and again in 2014-2016. He also coached the U15 NMI team against powerhouse North Korea, which won 24-0.

Coach Sugao Kambe, center background, discusses a play with the NMI Women's National Team in this 2009 file photo. Contributed photo

Mita, the NMIFA’s current technical director and head coach, said: “I can see the improvements based on the past coaches' contributions.” Years ago, he added, the NMI team played at the Hopwood field. “The pitches were bumpy and everyone aimed to kick the ball. And there were only two lines, the defensive line and the forward line. Now with a new facility in Koblerville, football has totally changed. This time the players are trying to keep the ball on the ground.”

Although the NMI soccer was not strong during its early days, the potential was already there, Kambe said.

Patty Coleman and her teammates really worked hard during training and during the games, he added. “Technically they were not so good at the time, but their behavior and discipline were good and I'm proud of them.”  At the time, Kambe also started working with youth teams. "Although working for one year was difficult, I'm happy for the improvements,” he said.

Sekiguchi said initially, “it was hard to select members because there were very limited choices,” but eventually, “it got easier — many young players showed potential including Sunjoon Tenorio and Jehn Joyner."

As for Coach Mita, he thinks the NMI still has a lot of work to do. “To play pro it takes more time because we are still young.” But Mita is happy to see improvements. “The NMI has six or seven players now on the mainland U.S., playing for varsity teams — we did not have that before. Hopefully in five to 10 years we can reach the professional level.  Step by step.”

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