‘Footcast’ talks about NMI U12 soccer team’s historic win against Guam

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ON Dec. 10, 2013, the NMI U12 National Team made history by beating Guam 4-0 to win the Marianas Cup at the Oleai Sports Complex.

It was the first time that an NMI soccer team had beaten a Guam team on NMI turf.

Episode 3 of “Footcast with Norman Del Rosario” featured four of the NMI players who talked about that special day:  Sunjoon Tenorio, Edwin Kim, Clayton Izuka, and Joshua Abragan.

Guam and the NMI are perennial rivals in regional sports events, and the 2013 Marianas Cup was another opportunity for the athletes of the sister islands to display their skills.

Sunjoon Tenorio, center, smiles as he poses with NMI Football Association president Jerry Tan, left, after the Northern Marianas’ U12 team defeated Guam in the 2013 Marianas Cup at the Oleai Sports Complex.

“Any time we played against Guam it was always a very fierce game filled with intensity and emotions,” Edwin Kim said. “Against Guam, you shouldn’t even lose the coin toss. We won the game because we really wanted it more than the other team.”

Everything about that game against Guam was unique, including how the NMI's first goal was made by the goalkeeper, Clayton Izuka. As Izuka had the possession, his first thought was to get the ball past the defenders. So he kicked it hard, aiming to pass to a striker deep on the opposite end of the field. However, instead of the NMI gaining possession, the ball ended up meeting the back of the net! “I was completely shocked at the time,” Izuka said. “Even with the crowd cheering and teammates running toward me in celebration, I was still wondering if that goal was going to be counted.”

Sunjoon Tenorio, who was the NMI team captain at the time, said Clayton was a 5'8 12-year-old who could kick the ball as far as possible.

For that once-in-a-lifetime goal, Clayton was given the nickname “hand grenade” by Del Rosario.

As for Tenorio, he was known for his ability to score so he usually played as a striker. But in the game against Guam, Coach Mita placed him in center back, a position that Tenorio was not too familiar with. “Definitely, back then, it was shocking and weird for me to play that position. I was definitely nervous. I really did not know what to do.”  But he played well, defending NMI's end of the field with speed to disrupt any incoming Guam attacks.

 

The NMI U12 National Team members pose for a photo after winning the 2013 Marianas Cup.

Defeating Guam was a big accomplishment, but to win by a huge margin was something that the NMI players said they can never forget. “You don't see the NMI winning a lot of games against Guam by a big margin. So that was special to me in a lot of ways,” Kim said.

“We worked really hard to defeat Guam,” Izuka added.

Joshua Abragan, for his part, said he was starstruck during the game. “It was my first time playing before a crowd.”

Tenorio said the game was “special to me because it just proved that we could play at a higher level. And we won at home. After we shook hands with the Guam players, we ran straight to the crowd and I had goosebumps.”

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