Soccer:  A team sport for men and women

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IN the past, soccer and other sports were usually dominated by men, but this is no longer true today as pointed out by Koo Luam Khen, Taketomo Suzuki and Angie Ito in episode 7 of “Footcast with Norman Del Rosario” on Saturday.

 They said before the NMI Women's National Soccer Team could earn its first international victory, it had to start off from the ground. NMI Football Association team manager Angie Ito said she was introduced to soccer in 2010. As a player, Ito first joined a co-ed team and, later, one of the island’s powerhouse teams, Shirley's Football Club. After getting involved with the NMIFA, she helped manage several teams and, in 2012, she officially became a team manager.

“In 2012 for the [East Asian Football Federation] Round 1 tournament on Guam, we needed to form a team, but we didn’t have a lot of players,” Ito said. The challenge further motivated her.

Coaches Taketomo Suzuki and Koo Luam Khen also helped soccer grow in the NMI. “When I first came to Saipan everything was a big surprise,” Koo Luam Khen said. “I have not experienced or thought of coming to practice in jean shorts, or basketball shoes. It was different.”


 Angie Ito, right, coaches her team during the National Elite Academy Cup Spring 2017 at the Hopwood soccer field. Contributed photo


Despite the challenges, the coaches never gave up on their primary goal: to improve the sport of soccer in the NMI, including for women. 

“I was influenced by twin brothers Jerry and Raymond Tan [of Tan Holdings] who gave me enough time to improve soccer in the NMI,” Koo Luam Khen said.

Taketomo Suzuki said, “[I] enjoyed the fact that I could do something to help develop the love for football in the NMI. Football makes you a better person. It's a team sport, so you need to cooperate, help each other, on and off the pitch. Cooperation is a part of life and very useful if you want to be successful in life.”

And now with more women becoming athletes, Angie Ito said: “It's a big deal for us — too see females being able to do what guys can do.” As for soccer, she said, “It's a long-term investment — the older you are the more you understand how important soccer could be. I feel it is really important physically, emotionally and mentally.”

Koo Luam Khen does not think women's sports are any different from men’s. “There are many professional players in so many countries that are women. If you’re an athlete, you have to work hard when you’re aiming for your goal and it makes no difference if you’re  a man or a woman.”

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