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‘You can't stop at being the best on Saipan’

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IN the first segment of episode 6 of “Footcast with Norman Del Rosario,” young players talked about their memorable experiences on the field, and what inspired them to continue playing soccer in college.

Gabi Race is grateful to be part of the first international win of the NMI Women's National Team when they defeated Macau in 2014.

For Guine Borja, the 2018 Marianas Cup was unforgettable because the NMI U19 team prevailed 3-2 in an exciting match against Guam.

Enrico Del Rosario said his special moment in soccer was when he made it to the national team at the age of 15. “It was good playing with older guys who mentored me,” he added.

Sunjoon Tenorio has a similar story. “At 15 I made it to the training camp for the men's team. It was important for my career because it opened my eyes to the competition here and elsewhere. It shaped who I am today as a player.”

Thaiphi Austria, left, makes contact with the ball as Guine Borja goes for the shot during the finals of the 2018 Youth Futsal Tournament at TSL Sports Complex. Photo by James F. Sablan Jr.

Dai Podziewski said the NMI’s game against Mongolia was a personal milestone. “When you play with adults for the first time it is really different. That experience really boosted my confidence which helped me transition to college knowing what's ahead.”

Thaphi Austria said he was used to being the youngest player on the team, but at an East Asian Football Federation tournament on Guam, he was the captain of the U13 team. “I was the captain and the oldest player of the team. We prepared for two months only, but that was really exciting,” he added.

Enrico Del Rosario said when he was still in high school, he played for a local league in the Philippines. “I realized that the competition was really good in other places. If you think you're the best in Saipan, you'll just be average somewhere else.”

Sunjoon Tenorio and Guine Borja had the opportunity to join training camps in Stanford and West Point. “These camps told me that if I want to play and get better I have to train harder. Camps showed me the real competition,” Tenorio said.
Borja agreed. “Going there and seeing other people play is an eye opener. You can't stop at being the best on Saipan and it inspires you to work harder.”

For these young players, their mentors and parents gave them a reason to continue playing soccer in college.

Gabi Race looked up to former teammate Megan Silberberger, but it was Gabi’s father, Coach Jeff, who really made an impact. “My dad pushed me to college athletics. He made sure I knew it was an option for me,” Race said.

“My mom,” Sunjoon Tenorio said, “was my biggest inspiration. She would always say things like, ‘I can't wait to see you at the World Cup.’ She always had high expectations and that [made me believe] that I could actually do it.”

Impressed with Gabi Race's college soccer journey, Guine Borja was convinced that she could be just as successful. “I always looked up to Gabi. Being able to hear and share her experience made it seem doable. It was inspiring for me.”
Enrico Del Rosario also found inspiration from older teammates Lucas Knecht and Bo Barry who played college soccer, too.

Thaphi Austria, for his part, looked up to Sunjoon Tenorio while Dai Podziewski said his teammates and coaches inspired him to be the best player he can be. “Coach Mita and I would meet a lot and talk about never settling. Never settle because there is always someone better.”

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