Cayman’s Under-23 Olympic football team jetted off to Honduras for 10 days of high intensity training before they compete in the Olympic qualifiers in Cuba next month.
Cayman is grouped with Puerto Rico, Cuba and Bermuda and will play at the La Habana stadium from 9-13 September.
During the training camp they will play top Honduras sides Vida and Victoria under new trainer Carl Brown, the widely respected coach who helped guide Jamaica to the World Cup finals in 1998. He joined Cayman coaching staff a month ago. Vastly experienced, Brown coached the Jamaican national side a total of five times over a 23 year span and has travelled the world, working with some of the best brains in modern football. Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin was at the press conference at Owen Roberts International Airport to see off the team.
Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said: ‘The 22 players going to Honduras have demonstrated excellent discipline and worked hard so far. The 10 days in Honduras means a lot to the players and Coach Brown. I want to thank all our supporters and sponsors and also Mr. McLaughlin for his work and vision for sports in this country because he is so supportive and I feel that he should put football as No.1 priority.’ (Everyone was amused by that comment).
McLaughlin said: ‘I continue to pledge my commitment on behalf of the government to helping the football programme. The components necessary are not just commitment and dedication by the players but they also need resources such as equipment, coaching and administration. All of this takes money, running into millions. But if they’re going to make a success and be the best that they can be we need to put in the resources. The only way the players are going to progress is to go to a serious training camp. ‘When you send them away and they don’t do as well as you expect them to then there are always complaints. It takes a lot of money and resources and these are the ingredients for success.’
McLaughlin said to the players: ‘I want to take this opportunity to wish you well and to remember that you’re ambassadors for the Cayman Islands so even if they don’t remember your name they will remember which country you came from.’
Coach Brown said: ‘I want to thank Mr McLaughlin for his efforts. Sport and education is important, it makes such an impact on peoples lives. We have seen a number of prime ministers in the Caribbean who were sports ministers so I don’t know if that’s an omen…
‘Just yesterday I saw the latest FIFA rankings and Cayman were 20. Our goal is getting to 19. I want to creep our way up the CONCACAF rankings and see how long it will take to be a force and see how well we’re doing in CONCACAF.
‘In 1991 Jamaica went to Honduras, poorly prepared and motivated. We lost 5-1 and 7-1 to the national team. We turned things around and beat them 3-1 in the Gold Cup soon after.
‘We could train forever and talk about what it’s like, but to be the best takes a lot of work and commitment. At our first morning session when I came here there was only one player. At the last one, 18 came. Some have to shower and then go to work and others are unable to be here with us because they can’t get the time off from their jobs. These are the sort of problems I lived with in Jamaica years ago. Now 90 per cent play full-time and they have a semi-pro league. The new challenge is here, getting back to the grassroots.’