Bernie Bush’s career in Cayman sport has always been an eventful one, both as a competitor, coach and administrator.
Until recently he was the driving force behind the flourishing women’s national football programme.
Their progress in the last year has been phenomenal, but Bush has surprisingly decided to step down.
He said: ‘First, I would like to say that there is no problem with me and anyone in the association, despite the rumours that are out there.
‘I feel that the private sector, football association and government have not really realised the amount of talent in the women’s programme.
‘FIFA rankings will show that they have moved up three places in the world and we now have a senior programme in which the oldest player is only 20 years old and some players are only 13 and 14.
‘Our average age for the senior national team is only about 15 or 16. This bodes well for the future.
‘When I took over the programme 19 months ago I think I’ve moved it forward and feel pleased with that.’
Bush said that there are numerous things which caused him to leave. One being an investigation that club officials with another team tried to pursue over whether Bush violated FIFA rules when helping to form Women’s United.
‘My feeling is that had that investigation been done it would embarrass two of the few detractors of the national programme and they would not be able to use me nor one or two of the other teams as an excuse not to send their best players onto the national team,’ Bush said.
‘It was also a bunch of smaller other things. Now my detractors won’t be able to use me as an excuse and people will be able to see for themselves what’s going on. This programme is a good one and proven. It’s not going by any hearsay.’
Bush feels that CIFA and its president, Jeffrey Webb, have done all they could to help the women’s programme but financial restrictions have stunted development.
‘When I’m putting a 150 per cent effort into something I expect the same thing back. But CIFA is not able to give the women’s programme all the attention and funds it needs, partly because its priority is with the men’s programme.
‘It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s because they have so many commitments to other national programme teams.
‘For example, when the Under-17 boys went the other day to a tournament in Trinidad, there was also a tournament there for U-15 girls. I knew nothing about it until officials came back and told me that it was going on. We should have been there.’
He also feels that Carl Brown, the vastly experienced coach brought over from Jamaica who is Cayman’s technical director of football, could be better used.
‘They say Carl Brown is good. I have nothing to say either way but I believe that if you are going to spend money on someone of his quality – and he does have quality – he should be put with Under-14s and U15s. Start down there. That’s where the future lies.
‘But we’ve never started to spend the big money on junior programmes and brought it all the way through.’
There has been much talk about ex-pats representing Cayman. Bush feels that had better youth development been in place, Cayman would now have a successful senior side comprising of all Caymanians.
‘We have people come from other countries and play for Cayman but they can’t even make their club teams much less for making their national teams. But they come here and they make it because of our shortcomings in our developmental plans.
‘I do feel that everyone’s castigating our men’s programme but I’m happy with the progress that seems to have been done in the Digicel Cup.
‘My opinion is that they should go to the 13, 14 and 15-year-olds and put Carl Brown there. They say he is good. I’ve only had a chance to watch one of his training sessions and I was impressed. What goes on in the changing room, I don’t know. But talking to a few players, they say he’s pretty good.’
Bush still thinks that it would be better for Brown to start with youngsters and even if they lose initially, a few years down the line they will be winners and make Cayman proud. That’s what he expects to happen with the current batch in the women’s programme.
‘The women will be successful if they stick together, don’t let egos get in the way and continue to listen to coaches and their parents.’
So what next for Bush? Since he announced in late July that he would be moving on he has been contacted by three organisations to join.
He has had many calls, emails and letters asking him to stay despite his notoriously hard approach. ‘I’m pleased to say that the discipline and commitment is there and I do wish them well. If they are handled properly they will go far.’
Bush also feels that until Cayman gets national coaches who are not associated with clubs and are unbiased football will not progress as fast as it could.
‘That was one advantage which I thought I had. Even though I helped get Women’s United going, it was not my club which is what some were trying to say.
Bush still maintains that he did nothing wrong when helping to form Women’s United because head of the women’s programme and was helping girls from various clubs to sort out any problems they had.
He is proud to have helped move the women’s programme on since the days of Cherry-Anne Whittaker who initially started it off.
He has recommended three separate coaches for three programmes; Under-15, Under-17 and seniors.
Bush added: ‘Working with Jeff Webb has been tremendous. We didn’t agree on everything, but he tried his best with what he had.
‘I feel the government and public has got to get behind the women’s programme and if they do I believe they will continue to go up in the rankings faster than the men.
‘I like the fact that the quality of the officials given to the women has improved. CIFA no longer give them the poor referees and officials. This has helped move the game forward.’