Sunday, April 27, 2014

U14 girls' team finishes second in Hong Kong

Editor's note: This biweekly column by Gary White, a UEFA "A" license and The FA Elite Coaches Pro license coach, delves into concepts and best practices adopted by developing nations to efficiently groom local athletes and teams, primarily in soccer, for international success.

I am happy to report that the Mini Masakåda, Guam's under-14 girls' national team, returned home last week on a winning note with a 4-0 victory over the Northern Mariana Islands and a silver finish in the Wofoo Girls' International Youth Football Invitational Tournament in Hong Kong.

Additionally, the team also recorded the most goals scored in the tournament with five in three matches. Many of the under-14 girls who played in Hong Kong included the first group of players to matriculate from the National Academy. It's encouraging to see their successful transition to the international stage under head coach and Guam Football Association's new assistant technical director Sang Hoon Kim, who is already beginning to show his quality.

With this tournament behind them and international experience under their belt, the Mini Masakåda now has an even larger endeavor: competing in the AFC U14 Girls' Regional Championship in Beijing, China. The team is pooled with Japan, China, P.R., and DPR Korea, much stronger teams than it had faced in the Hong Kong tournament.

In the month before the AFC tournament, coaches will be working on reinforcing strengths, while improving weak areas to increase the team's competitiveness against countries with a FIFA Women's World Cup-caliber women's program.

I recently was in Hong Kong for the FIFA/AFC Regional Member Association and Development Seminar that had put together the region's association presidents, general secretaries and technical directors.

The seminar was intended to disseminate information on FIFA governance reforms, new regulations governing development programs, and information about FIFA development programs and services available to member associations.

The participation and discussions during this seminar speaks volumes on the region's emphasis on fortifying development initiatives to sustain international football success.

It is important for the community to get behind GFA's development programs, as success of these programs will grant opportunities to Guam's best players, coaches, officials and administrators.

The continuous work by GFA at the grassroots level, the youth academy level and the youth national level are key to fulfilling our 10-year development plan, which aims to make Guam the fifth-best football nation in East Asia by 2022.

By that time, particularly in international competition, we will begin to see the contributions by the under-8 and under-10 athletes selected to the first-ever National Academy group in 2012.

In the meantime, the Matao and Masakåda are working hard to pave the way for our young, elite athletes. The Matao have already begun to set the standard for Guam's future teams, moving up into ranks never seen before in GFA history.

The foundation also has been set to move the Masakåda through a similar route to success as the Matao.

The community will have the chance to watch both the Matao and Masakåda in action in the EAFF East Asian Cup and Women's East Asian Cup preliminary competitions in July in Guam.

Against countries like Macau, Mongolia and the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam is expected to win and move on to the semifinal round of both competitions.

With Guam at its strongest point in football history, now is the best time to be involved with the sport, whether through playing, coaching, officiating or through financial support of development initiatives by the GFA.

Gary White, or the "Gaffer," is Guam Football Association's technical director and head coach of the men's national soccer team.

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