Cayman Brac may only have 1,800 inhabitants but when it comes to sport it definitely punches above its weight.
In recent years the sports scene in Brac has blossomed immeasurably thanks to some dedicated officials who see the value of introducing physical activity to youngsters, partly to keep them out of trouble, but also to boost their self esteem and to stave off the health issues associated with obesity and inactivity.
Greeted by Brac MLA Moses Kirkconnell, Mark Tibbetts, who is the deputy district commissioner and sports instructor Mithum Sanford, some footballers over for the celebrity match on Sunday were on Saturday treated to the sights of Cayman Brac in a whistle-stop tour of the island before attending a clinic at the new $1 million all-weather, synthetic pitch on the Bluff.
The trip was organised by Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, who went along too and apologised for Romario not being able to attend because his wife was taken ill with food poisoning the night before.
The pitch was laid in May and is so new that it still doesn’t have an official name. It is the first phase of what will be a world class sports complex which will be up to FIFA international standards. Ambitious Brackers would love to stage a World Cup match there, they are that serious. In addition there will be an athletics track, hard courts and swimming pool.
The players who gave the clinic were Jamaican internationals Theordore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore and Kevin ‘Pele’ Wilson along with Tyson Nunez, the brilliant Honduran striker.
They got into teaching the kids so much that when it came to a scrimmage game at the end of the clinic, all three were pouring with sweat. All the little Romarios and Ronaldos – of which there were several – were thrilled.
‘Today was very successful despite Romario not attending,’ said Sanford. ‘Everyone enjoyed it. This helped motivate the youngsters to see what it takes to become an international player and to play in the World Cup. It also helps the parents who want to inspire them.’
Sanford tries to hold these type of sessions every few months, whether its with a top athlete, coach or motivational speaker. ‘That way I can maintain interest.’
He started developing sport on the island around five years ago after leaving the fire service. Female participation in sports was at an all-time low. It has increased ten-fold since and is now at its highest ever.
‘Before the programme started we had a number of delinquents and drop outs,’ said Sanford. ‘Now we don’t have a single one. We also now have an elite programme and two boys are on scholarships in the US playing football through it.
‘Six of our players are in the Cayman Under-17 and Under-20 football squads and our youth side only lost one game all season.’
Whitmore reflected the mood of his colleagues. He is now coaching the Reggae Boyz and having played professionally in England and scored Jamaica’s two goals in their 2-1 win over Japan at the 1998 World Cup Finals, is more than qualified to talk about talent.
‘Coaching is part of my job,’ he said. ‘The kids really loved it and were very enthusiastic. I saw a lot of young talent today. We were even talking about it just now on the bus. With the right guidance some of them can make it.’
Of the little he saw of Brac, Whitmore was impressed. ‘Brac is a nice little island, I’m looking forward to coming back here.’
Kirkconnell said: ‘I’m extremely pleased to welcome players of this calibre here. They interacted with the parents and young people superbly.
‘It’s important to continue this partnership we have with CIFA and I look forward in the future to see more world class players here.
‘The kids not only saw their skill level but their speed. Parents came out and even asked for their autographs too.
‘Sport here goes from strength to strength and I’m looking forward to competition here with Grand Cayman teams. Sport is the foundation for building solid citizens.’