Cayman women’s football are in another tournament from next week only this time it’s the Under-17s.
It’s the World Cup qualifiers and Cayman travel to Antigua to play the hosts on 21 November, then British Virgin Islands two days later before facing the tough Jamaicans on 25 November.
Cayman acquitted themselves well in the Olympic qualifiers in North Side last month. Despite losing 4-0 to Puerto Rico and 3-2 to Haiti, they gained immense experience for the Antigua tournament because the visitors were senior teams and most of Cayman’s side are barely into their teens. Coaches Thiago Cunha and Bobby McLaren have brought the girls on really well considering the women’s programme only started a while ago.
Super striker Shenel Gall, 16, scored an amazing goal in the first minute of the game against Haiti. She said: ‘I’m looking forward to the Antigua tournament. Everybody wants to test themselves and I believe we can make it far. The way Haiti touched the ball and ran off it was impressive but we can do that too. Even though their football looked pretty, I’m sure that we can do much better than they can, because everybody here has different abilities and I’m sure that we can do so too. I got hurt in the Haiti game. They were physically much stronger because they were grown women but I still think we were fitter than them.’
Brittany Movley, 13, is a defender. ‘This is my second time playing abroad as I went to Jamaica on tour in July. I got the experience of going over there and playing against stronger teams. It helped a lot.’
Somali Hall, 15, is a forward. ‘I went to Jamaica too and I feel I did well in all three matches. Everybody went out there and did their best. I learnt I needed to improve my tackling and I’ve worked on that.’
Team manager Bernie Bush is very upbeat. ‘I’m feeling very positive with what I’m seeing and hoping that what happened against Puerto Rico, that first match in Grand Cayman where we were a little nervous, I’m hoping that the nervousness doesn’t get to them in that first match against Antigua.
‘It will be a partisan atmosphere as they are the home crowd but I still feel very confident that once we get through that first match, people are going to see the beauty of our programme. Our sequence of matches is perfect for us because we will get a chance to see Jamaica play. Yes, of course, they will see us as well.
‘We’ve actually had a scouting report on BVI through our former coach who is in the States, Paul Hill. It looks good. We’re not underestimating them. That ball is round and you underestimate no one.
‘The only thing we know about Antigua is that Puerto Rico Under-17s went there and beat them 4-0 so seeing the fact that some of our 13 and 14-year-olds played against Puerto Rico seniors who were able to hold their own, that gives me a little encouragement. Keeping in mind too, that this is our first time in a major tournament, this programme is only 10 months old. We are ahead of where we expected to be at this stage. Coaches Bobby and Thiago are doing an excellent job of preparing them and we’re trying to cover everything, including the psychology, physiology and every aspect of preparation.’
Bush has not named a captain yet. He is still assessing the squad. ‘Being captain is not necessarily being the best player. It’s about leading from the front and also knowing what your responsibilities are and what other people have to do. When I played for the national team my captain was Antonio Smith and I always use him as a bench mark for choosing my captain.
‘I’d like to say a special thank you to the football association who is doing everything possible, within reason, for these girls to succeed. I was one of those who used to complain that women’s football was not getting any respect. I must say that this U-17 national programme has proven their dedication and the association has shown the love and backing. Hats off to the association.