Reminiscing with the NMI women’s soccer team

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THE Northern Mariana Islands Football Association and the sport of soccer have grown enormously over the years.

Games that were used to be held at the airport field are now played at a soccer facility with artificial turf.

Saturday’s pilot episode of “Footcast” with MP United Football Club technical director/coach and podcaster Norman Del Rosario featured four NMI women's national players who shared their memories.

Emily Gries Maxberry, Patricia Coleman, Natalie Hill, and Lindsay Davis were the special guests.

 Members of the NMI U19 soccer women’s team celebrate after winning the 2018 Marianas Cup at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville. Photo by James F. Sablan Jr. 

“The NMIFA has been growing, improving, and developing with a lot of local players now collegiate athletes,” Del Rosario said. “But it's important to know its history, to know the people that have been part of this build-up. This podcast is our chance to get to know some of these players.”

The four former NMI national soccer players talked about their lives before and during the rise of the NMIFA. 

Lindsay, Emily, and Patty said they had played soccer during childhood, high school, and college so it was not hard to make a decision when they were presented the opportunity to join the NMI national team.

But Natalie had never played any sport growing up. Encouraged by her friends, however, she joined the women's bootcamp at the age of 24. It was her first time to play any sport in her life. She was also given the chance to train with the national team. “It was unbelievable to me as a non-athlete,” she recalled.

 

Natalie Hill throws in the ball during an Asian Football Federation game in Taiwan in 2009. Contributed photo

Lindsay, who started playing in the recreational league, said she “loved soccer, and I wanted to get back into it.” A year after she moved to Saipan in 2005, the women's national team was formed. “To be part of something like that is so huge — the magnitude of playing for a national team!”

Emily said she took a big leap of faith when she decided to move to Saipan. It also did not take her long to find soccer back in her life. "I will never forget what Patty said, ‘Do it for the children.’ It was all for the children. The goal was to get it [the women’s national team] started,” Emily added.

The four former national players said there were challenges and frustrations they had to overcome, but there were also accomplishments that they are very proud of.

“Doing your job, your daily way of living while making sure you were rested and fed and prepared to do this athletic commitment that you loved,” Lindsay recalled. “Going for jogs, and evening practices whether it be long or hard. For most of the players it was a tough experience.”

“We had our good and bad days.” Patty said. “It was a different level of discipline.”

As soccer progressed in the NMI so did the game. “Other coaches brought technical skills and drill work, and it was cool to be a part of that,” Emily said. “We've come a long way in a short time.”

Like Del Rosario, the former national players believe that soccer has made a huge impact on the NMI — and it shows in all the recent off-island accomplishments of today’s soccer players.

 

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