Cayman’s Under-20s footballers are in action this week, hosting the World Cup qualifiers.
The games at the Truman Bodden Field start on Wednesday.
Jamaica play Puerto Rico in the first game, kick off 5.30pm. Cayman play in the second match, against Bermuda, kick off 7.30pm. On Friday Cayman play Puerto Rico, again in the second game, kick-off 7.30pm. Friday’s first game is Jamaica against Bermuda. Sunday’s final games are between Puerto Rico and Bermuda and the big match will be Cayman against Jamaica.
Future SC striker Mark Ebanks is likely to spearhead the attack for Cayman. All three matches will be tough so Ebanks will have to be at his sharpest.
Cayman team manager Antwa Seymour had a frustrating time initially to get the Under-20s squad to gether. He said: ‘To say that the beginning of the journey with the Cayman Under-20 team was an easy one would be an all out lie.
‘Everything started out slowly; less than ten players showed up to training, a few local teams were reluctant to send out their players, the field was almost empty.
‘It made me question the young players’ commitment to country. Where was the desire to represent the Cayman Islands?
‘Where was the enthusiasm to wear the country’s colours with pride while engaging in one of the greatest sports ever created?
‘Although, the future looked bleak we still held on to our belief that out of struggle excellence can be born.’
But as the weeks progressed, with a little bit of pressure on players and their reluctant club coaches, things began to improve.
‘The squad grew to 15, then 20 then more than 30 and I felt we had something to work with,’ Seymour said. ‘They trained hard and I realized that with encouragement, hard work and time something wonderful could take place.
‘My desire to work with this team came out of my experiences as a former member of the national team. I wanted to give something back to my community. I wanted to do something positive for the youth.
‘There was so much talk about building for the future and focusing on the young people that I felt this was the best way for me to contribute in that area.
‘I quickly learned that talk is cheap. People say things because they sound good but when the time comes for action you realize that words are just…words.
‘This became clear to me when we sought financial support for the team last month.
‘We wanted the players to attend a training camp as a means of giving them the opportunity to improve their skills while bonding as a unit.
‘Door after door was closed in our faces and I asked myself where was that support for the youth.
‘We are thankful for the generosity of Alden McLaughlin, Jeff Webb, Cayman National and Polar Bear Air Conditioning.
‘It was fundamental in allowing the team to attend a week long camp in Fort Lauderdale.
‘During this time players participated in fitness training, technical drills and practice games against a few US teams.
‘They returned home to Cayman eager to play in the Under 20 Group B World Cup Qualifier Tournament.
‘We want the people of the Cayman Islands to know that we are not putting together a ‘microwave team’.
‘We won’t be able to press a button and expect finished results a minute later. These players have only been together for four months.
‘We cannot expect them to go out and immediately dominate on the field. This is a team for the future and they will have to spend some time in the oven.
‘They will have to experience failure, success, trials, good times, hard times, discipline…together. They will be put through several tests and they will make mistakes.
‘It is only through making mistakes that real learning can take place.
‘Every one of these young men have worked hard and we are proud of them. We want the people of the Cayman Islands to come out and support this team; wave your flags, wear your colours, let them hear your voices.
‘Let us recognize them for doing something positive in a time when so many of our young men make bad choices. No matter what the outcome may be we have something to be proud about and we have a reason to cheer.’