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NMI soccer’s very first international win: What if felt like

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IN celebration of the ninth anniversary of the first international win of the NMI boys soccer team, the first half of the eighth episode of “Footcast with Norman Del Rosario” featured the nine players from the team that made it happen.

They are Jehn Joyner, Kenneth Domingo, Jireh Yobech, Hunter Jewell, Andrew Johnson, Kennedy Izuka, Billy Henson and Enrico Del Rosario. Joining them was Coach Jersh Angeles.

The NMI U15 Boys National Team victory happened on July 24, 2011 at an East Asia Football Federation tournament. The NMI made an epic comeback to edge Macau, 2-1.

Billy Henson said when he looked at the scoreboard and saw that they had bested Macau, “I was so excited.”

Kennedy Izuka said he “just kept looking at it,” referring to the scoreboard.

As for Jehn Joyner, it was the smile on his mother's face that was the most memorable moment.

Jireh Yobech said he “did not know what winning was like until that very moment. We played a few games and got smashed, but this, it was pure elation. My mind was buzzing, I don't know how to explain it.”

The members of the U15 Boys National Team pose for a photo in 2011. Contributed photo

Coach Jersh Angeles said the victory against Macau showed that anything is possible.

“Grit and hard work paid off in the end,” he added. “Macau was the better team, but I could not forget what [NMI coach] Kiyoshi Sekiguchi told me during the warmups: ‘Jersh, we have a chance.’”

After the win, Angeles said the first thing he did upon arriving at the hotel was to call his wife. “Tell Jerry [Tan, the president of the NMI Northern Marianas Football Association] we made history.”

Angeles said during the game, when the NMI scored its first goal, he rushed to the field. “Good thing [I didn’t get] a yellow card,” he added.

It was Macau that drew first blood in the first half. “We were playing solid, but we conceded a goal. I felt defeated,” Yobech said.

But in the locker room at halftime, he added, Coach Kiyoshi Sekiguchi “was so passionate — he said he knew we were able to do more. And all the apathy I had was gone. Being able to rise up to certain circumstances — that’s what I learned from that game.”

Domingo said, “Up until the game against Macau, we were getting smashed by double digits with nothing to show for it in return. That messes with you mentally…. But after that game [against Macau], I felt like I was actually better than I think I was. I had that taste of power. I knew we were destined for greatness."

Andrew Johnson said he felt pride. “Now everything I do, I do the best I can. Before that game I did not have much pride.”

Jehn Joyner said the reward of hard work was so sweet. “It was an honor to represent the NMI,” he added.

Coach Jersh Angeles said he learned that there is always hope. “It kept me pushing to do more for NMI soccer, especially for the grassroots program. I didn’t stop coaching because of hope and it all started with this team.”

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