Men playing football

Northern Marianas record first ever Pacific Games football win

cropped IMG 9348 | February 24, 2024
Northern Mariana Islands made history at SIFF Academy on Tuesday. Photos: Gibson Dite’e, Pacific Games News Service

There was drama, tears and history created in the Sol2023 Pacific Games men’s football play-offs at the SIFF Academy on Monday as Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) recorded their first ever Pacific Games football goals and win.

NMI defied all odds in earning their first ever Pacific Games football victory thanks to a 4-0 win over American Samoa in the competition’s first ninth place play-off semi-final.

Jireh Yobech scored his country’s first Pacific Games goal from the penalty spot 32 minutes into the match.

Ruben Guerrero added a brace after the breather before Ariel Narvaez all but sealed the famous victory with a last-ditch goal towards the end of the match.

“I am very happy with the performance today. We didn’t get the results we wanted in our last two matches but today we finally made history for our country. We have definitely proved that we can compete with these FIFA affiliated teams and of course we can win,” a jubilant NMI coach, Michiteru Mita told the Pacific Games News Service.

Michiteru‘s side will take on Tuvalu next, who defeated Tonga 4-0 in the day’s other ninth place play-off semi- final.

“Everyone will be wanting to win, so I think recovery will be important for my boys so we are now focusing on the next match and aiming for another victory”, he added.

In the day’s other match, the first fifth place play-off semi-final, Tahiti had to come from behind to beat a resilient Samoa side 2-1.

Samoa took an early lead through Dilo Tumua who caught Tahiti’s defence napping and finished off coolly for the opener.

The five-time gold medalists Tahiti were then reduced to nine men after two of their players received their marching orders before the half time breather.

Shawn Tinirauarii kicked off the come-back for Tahiti, leveling the scores in the 49th minute before Teva Lossec scored his side’s late winner in the 88th minute of the match.

“Today’s match was very difficult for us with two of our players sent off in the first half, but well done to the opposition for pulling off a very difficult win today,” said Tahiti Football head of delegation, Venance Tamu. “We will go back to our camp tonight and speak with the players as they prepare for our next important match for the fifth position.”

Tahiti will meet PNG in the fifth position play-offs after PNG’s match with Cook Islands was forfeited.

Semi-finals for the men’s medal matches kick off tomorrow at Lawson Tama with two mouthwatering clashes. New Caledonia take on Vanuatu at 12pm, followed by hosts Solomon Islands meeting Fiji at 3pm.

By Timothy Inifiri Jnr, Philip Robo, Ellen Tinoni & Marella Puleki, Pacific Games News Service

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