The visiting team arrived early this morning and will be fielding 30 players, who are 19 to 25 years old, in the scrimmage. Also joining the squad are two coaches and seven trainers.
“These players are enrolled in a two-year program at Japan Soccer College. They will start their season in April and they been training indoors, as it's been snowing in Japan, so they wanted to get out and play in an outdoor pitch to get themselves ready,” said Futsal Point's Kaz Kaneko, who coordinated the group's trip to Saipan.
“We also found out that the CNMI Team is competing in AFC, so somehow the timing is good and we wanted to help them by playing a friendly game. I know it will be hard for your national team to keep traveling to play other squads, so we will try to bring as many teams here as often as possible,” Kaneko added.
After their game against the Nationals, the visitors will also face a selection from the M-League tomorrow, also at the Oleai pitch.
Meanwhile, joining Kaneko and the players on their Saipan visit is Futsal Point chair Kenji Sakaguchi. Futsal Point is a private company in Japan that is involved on the building and management of futsal and beach soccer facilities and Sakaguchi met with Northern Mariana Islands Football Association to express his company's desire to help NMIFA improve or built facilities.
“Better facilities help produce better players,” Sakaguchi said.
Kaneko, who also works for Futsal Point, added having adequate facility will also encourage more players to try the sport.
Meanwhile, Sakaguchi, who played for the Japan U19 National Team in 1992 and suited up for the Urawa Reds in the prestigious J League from 1993 to 2000, wished the CNMI Team good luck, as it compete in the AFC for the first time.
“I hope CNMI players will gain a lot of experience that will help them in the future, as they compete in more AFC events,” Sakaguchi said.