“With the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers coming up, I felt that I needed to be training and playing at a high level constantly,”
HARMON – Guam’s success in recent months leading up to automatic qualification to the second round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers continues to open doors to Asia’s professional football leagues, with the selection of the Matao’s Jonahan Romero to Khoromkhon FC, defending champion of Mongolia’s premier league, as the latest signing.
“With the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers coming up, I felt that I needed to be training and playing at a high level constantly,” said Romero, who will be departing to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia the first week of May. “I’d been going on a few trials with clubs in different Asian countries and it came down to contract negotiations. My agent, who’s based in the U.S., told me that playing for this club would open more doors for me, since it’s less difficult to go from one professional club to another, instead of taking a break like I had done.
“I had to take this opportunity – I thank God for this and I pray to God that more opportunities will come out of this,” Romero added.
Khoromkhon FC is based out of the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and plays in the Niislel League, or Capital League, the country’s premier league. The club won its first league title in 2005 and is the league’s current defending champion. Other teams in the league include Erchim, seven-time league champions that had earned a spot in the AFC President’s Cup in 2012, FC Ulaanbaatar, Khangarid, Selenge Press, Ulaanbaataryn Mazaalaynuud, and Ulaanbaatar University.
Romero played professionally most recently in the Philippines – two seasons with Kaya FC and his final season with Loyola Meralco Sparks – before returning to Guam in 2013. Romero also played professionally in Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago.
“J.R. gaining a professional contract to play in the Mongolian premier league underlies his desire to continue improving as a player,” said Gary White, Guam men’s national team head coach and Guam Football Association technical director. “The message to all of the Matao’s potential and prospective players has been very clear from the beginning: to be considered for a spot on the roster, they must be constantly pushing themselves to play at higher levels.
“After the team’s success in Singapore, spots on the Matao’s roster for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers will be more competitive than ever. We will be keeping a close eye on J.R.’s performances in Mongolia,” White added.
The Matao will next play Turkmenistan and India on June 11 and 16, respectively, in Guam, to open its FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign. Guam recently was drawn into Group D and will also compete against Asia’s top team – I.R. Iran – and Oman, rounding out the group’s five countries.
Upon returning to Guam in 2013, Romero first played for Budweiser Soccer League premier division champions Rovers FC. He later moved to play for the Payless Supermarkets Strykers FC, a team that was close to relegation to Division II at the end of the 2013-2014 season, but has since become title contenders in the 2014-2015 season with the acquisition of players like Romero. The team is guaranteed a top two finish this season and will play the Rovers FC Sunday in its final match of the season. The Strykers-Rovers fixture will determine 2014-2015 league champions.
“I’d like to thank GFA President Richard Lai and the executives for their continued support of football development in Guam and also the Gaffer (White) for continuing to push us to play at higher levels,” Romero said. “I’d also like to thank Keith Dickson, who has been an amazing sponsor while I’ve been here in Guam and a great father-figure who has helped me live my life here in Guam with football through coaching and training opportunities. I’d also like to thank my Strykers FC teammates, who’ve all been very supportive of my decision. Additionally, I’d like to thank Richard Hawes who’s also been there for me a lot, coach Rod Hidalgo who has helped me improve my overall fitness and speed, Unified Gym and Paradise Fitness Center for allowing me to train there and their support as well.
“I definitely would like to thank my girlfriend Ana Borja, who just gave birth to my son, too. She’s been 100 percent supportive – it’s going to be tough for her along the way, but she’s my real MVP, my champion, and she’ll be holding down the fort while I’m there. I really want to thank her for allowing me to pursue this,” Romero added.