Last summer the Cayman Islands Football Association sent three young players camping with professional football club C.R. Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This coming weekend three additional players David Bodden Jr. and Dave McLaughlin Jr. both of George Town Sports Club, and Tevon Levien of Bodden Town Football Club will board the iron bird destined for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The players are scheduled to be away July 16th – August 7th, 2005 and will be chaperoned by National Women’s and Eastern District Coach Thiago Cunha.
The program’s aim is to improve the level of football played in the Cayman Islands both by sending players to Brazil to participate in professional football camps and receiving Brazilian players who participate in the local leagues. CIFA President Jeffrey Webb noted that 2005 will be CIFA’s second year of involvement with the program which has thus far has been successful in achieving the goals that were set for it. ‘Vasco da Gama is one of the most professional teams in Brazil and it’s a good opportunity for our players coming from an amateur league to see what goes into making a professional football player. We are hoping that the experiences they gain overseas will be passed on to their fellow players upon their return… we’ve seen great improvements in the three players that went last year.’
With most young players here aspiring to play professional football either in Europe or in the United States the program will go a long way in not only exposing the players to the disciplined and rigorous lifestyle of a professional football player but also help to improve their confidence on the field.
Of the three players that went last year, Joseph Tatum who is now on full scholarship at St. George’s Prep School in the United States, is currently in Europe for try outs with professional Belgian and English football clubs.
General Secretary Bruce Blake emphasized that this is not a one time investment in these players but that the ultimate goal was to assist them in gaining university scholarships and/or tryouts with teams overseas. He noted that being talented on the field is admirable but of even greater importance is the player’s academic background. ‘There are far more players trying to become professional than there are clubs to support them. So it is important that these players also have a solid educational background to supplement their football careers.’
The CIFA Vasco Exchange Program he said is the first step in the process. ‘Hopefully the experience gained will elevate their game to the point that they would be noticed by foreign coaches who will offer them university scholarships. These players along with other youngsters must understand that in order to succeed on the field and in life a solid educational background is required.’
The players were equally excited about the opportunity and hoped that they would learn new skills that would help improve their game once they return home in August. Both Tevon Levien and Dave McLaughlin stated that they felt good to be selected for the program especially since other players would be looking up to them to represent Cayman well. They feel no pressure what so ever and are anxious to get out on the field to play.