Cayman football got a big boost last week when the national side qualified for the next round of the Digicel Cup.
Cayman were undefeated in their three matches at the Truman Bodden Field and will compete in the second round in Guadeloupe next month.
The improvement in results is pleasing for the likes of coach Greg Ebanks whose Elite club in West Bay provides many national players at all levels.
‘Of course, I was impressed,’ Ebanks said. ‘I managed to watch the first two games they played and they should from those games how football should be played. They kept their shape and were well organised.
‘What was most impressive was that they improved on their passing and their ability to maintain possession of the ball.
‘The history of our national team in previous games was a kick and run game but we didn’t see that during those games. They were more cohesive and gelled a lot better. They had composure.
‘If they can continue building on that I think we’ll be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.’
Unlike previous national sides, this Cayman team mostly comprised of home-grown players. Ebanks hopes to see more Caymanians playing abroad in the near future to improve their skills in stronger leagues.
‘Obviously, the teams we’re going to be playing in the next round will be more competitive.
‘Cayman will not have the liberty to play that way. I emphasise this all the time that to compete at a higher level we’re not just going to do it by playing home alone.
‘We have to have our players do what other countries do and get them to play abroad, in colleges and the MLS.
‘We need them to be exposed and to match their energies. Unfortunately, we can’t match their energies now because all our players (except keeper Tuda Murphy) are home based. Being at home is not going to cut it. We have to be out there to participate.’
Ebanks’ midfielder son Jedd was heavily concussed playing in a match a few months ago and needed brain surgery in Miami.
He is making steady progress and Greg is pleased that Jedd is making tentative steps towards a full comeback.
‘Jedd is taking it easy, playing low-key games indoors and nothing too competitive. His final check up is in November. The bruises are not there anymore and maybe by the end of the year or perhaps January he should be back at full strength.’
Cayman defender Rene Carter believes they can get through to the finals in Jamaica in November.
‘I think we did well in the Digicel Cup and didn’t disappoint a lot of people in Cayman,’ he said. ‘We worked hard over the last couple of months in training. I know it’s going to be tough in the next round but we’ll be alert for whatever comes up.
‘The team on a fitness level has always been okay, I just think it was confidence which was lacking between the players and I think this team is now pretty confident.’