Kindly permit me space in your newspaper to respond to a letter published in your paper on Friday, 11 February, under the headline ‘Young footballers overlooked’.
Let me say at the outset, I wholeheartedly agree with the writer’s opinion that priority should be given to our young football players. But, I disagree with the charge that they are being neglected.
The point should be noted, however, that as we develop and nurture the young talent, which is indeed out there, it cannot be done at the abandonment of the Men’s National Team.
Regardless of the successes, or lack thereof, in international competition by our Senior Men’s National Team, it should be understood that as a member of FIFA, we are required to be involved in a number of regional competitions, and must provide a team whenever those competitions are scheduled.
As the writer has rightly observed, the National Men’s Team probably will not be called up for any of those international matches for some while in the future.
Certainly that is not to suggest they should discontinue training as a squad, seeking to attain the level of skills that the writer contends they do not have.
Consistent training during down time increases chances of a better performance at the next outing of the national team. Cayman football is young, and attention must be paid to all aspects of its development.
The Cayman Islands Football Association believes that not only should much attention be placed on the young players, but also that there should be domestic competitions specifically for them.
With the annual Under 14 and Under 17 domestic tournaments we are very much on our way towards this goal of a nation-wide domestic league for the youth.
Silently, and very much unnoticed by the general public, and in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth and Sports one professional youth coach has been assigned to the various districts of the Cayman Islands, except George Town where there are two. These coaches are charged with nurturing and developing talent at a district level. In all probability the fantastic ability that the writer has observed at the Inter-Primary Football Rally last month is in some degree owed to youth inter-action with the district coaches.
Upon my arrival in 2002 I inherited the Primary School Youth Football Program from former National Technical Director Marcio Maximo. Additionally, CIFA organizes the Annual Cayman Youth Football Festival that features a colourful parade of primary school Under-14 and Under-16 boys and girls in day-long competition. As well as the Annual District Tournament for Under-12 and Under-16 boys and girls, comprising players selected by the district coaches.
In 2004, the Under-12 and Under-14 National Teams, which trained every Saturday morning, were forced to stop owing to damage from Hurricane Ivan to football fields and facilities. These teams played friendly matches against visiting teams from Hotchkiss and Cheshire Preparatory Schools of Connecticut, USA. The Cayman Under-12 team, won their encounter 3-2, and the Under-17 team played to a 1-all draw.
At this time the international exposure of our younger players is limited because neither FIFA nor CONCACAF has official competitions for Under-12 and Under-14 national teams.
I hope that through this explanation the writer would see that Cayman’s young footballers are not being ignored, but are the subject of a CIFA systematic development plan, which in time will spread wider.
It is none-the-less comforting to know that there are persons like the writer out there who care about the development of youth football. With that in mind I invite the individual to utilize their passion by joining CIFA as a volunteer with our Youth Committee.