While not making any excuses for the Cayman Islands Senior Men’s team’s failure to reach the finals of the Digicel Caribbean Championship, it is fair to say that the team was psychologically affected as a result of the dilapidated and deplorable conditions they were exposed to upon their arrival at the appalling ‘hotel’ in which the Guadeloupe Football League had placed the team.
This happened when the team arrived in Guadeloupe to participate in Group F of Stage Two of the Digicel Cup tournament hosted there from October 8-16.
As was expected, it was smooth sailing from the Cayman Islands to Miami on Tuesday October 7 where the team over-nighted after a 2-0 and 1-0 win over Stultz Academy and a Haitian Select team respectively.
On Wednesday the journey started towards Guadeloupe. It was fine until the team landed in Pointe de la Verdure Gosier, Guadeloupe when all hell broke loose.
According to sources, this was a nightmare for the players who apart from having a communication problem with the French speakers, were transported to lodgings for oil company workers which obviously was unoccupied for a prolonged period of time.
Technical director Carl Brown said the hotel conditions dampened the players mentally and this was the most serious negative factor to affect any team participating in an international event in a foreign country.
‘The conditions were appalling, as a coach that was my greatest fear; the entire team was depleted when they saw the conditions of the place they were to stay for nine days,’ Brown said.
‘This place was not a hotel but temporary accommodation for oil company workers and construction workers as well. It took a toll on them they were devastated and traumatized and it took them days to settle.
‘Throughout all my years of travelling with teams to participate in tournaments abroad this was my worst experience. The place was disgusting. The stench that greeted us was nauseating. Frogs were in the rooms it was infested by numerous types of insects including roaches.
‘On the first two days (Wednesday and Thursday) we were unable to train for reasons unknown to me. On the third day (Friday) we were picked up and taken to a play field which was basically more mud than grass. Mud covered our boots and was almost everywhere we stepped.
‘That was where Calvin Jefford got injured. His foot got stuck in the mud and in his effort to remove it he strained his ankle, it became swollen and painful preventing him from playing in the first two games.
‘What made matters worst it was 6pm when we arrived at that field for training, by 6:30pm the place was dark and we had no light so we had to stop training.
‘Our frustration did not end there as the bus that took us to the field did not return to pick us up and we had no means of communications to get to the liaison officer so we had to walk almost three miles back to the place we were staying.’
Brown went on to say that this changed after Cayman Islands Football Association’s president Jeffrey Webb intervened taking a member of the Guadeloupe Football League on location to see the conditions.
Cayman were removed that evening after the game against Guadeloupe (which they lost 7-1) to Karibea Beach Resort (Clipper Hotel) situated in Pointe de la Verdure, a great improvement.
‘This new environment helped to settle the team and made them more focused for the game against Martinique which they lost 1-0 after Carson Fagan was red carded fifteen minutes into the game forcing the team to play with ten men,’ Brown said.
‘We played well during that game and did very well in the last game against Grenada as well although we lost 4-2. Eric Brown netted both goals in the 32nd and 74th minute. We made some defensive errors in that game and it cost us two goals.
‘Overall it was a great learning experience for these players most of whom have never gone abroad to participate at this level. Jermaine Brown did well in goal, Sanchez and Nelson had good games.
‘The team fought well but Calvin had a bad tournament. This tournament is a catalyst for the way forward for football on the islands all we need to do now is build on it and we will be going places.’
Team captain Thomas Elliot said: ‘At least four of the Guadeloupe players are professional players and they were quicker, bigger, stronger and tactically better. For a small team to get the better of a big team they need to be more tactically prepared to handle that bigger team.’
Carson Fagan scored the consolation goal against Guadeloupe.
Elliot added: ‘We had a great game against Martinique and the results might have been different if Fagan was not sent off for two yellow cards so early in the game.
‘Overall it was an interesting and eventful tournament and I can attest to the fact that the team has learnt a lot.’
The Cayman Islands recently leaped 22 points up the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings taking the island from 183 to a stunning 161.
Without a doubt, it is clear that football in the Cayman Islands has been moving in the right direction taking a giant step forward under the directions Carl Brown who has been in charge of the national programme since August 2007.
Brown said he was delighted when he heard of the progress the football was making up the FIFA ladder adding that he had made a promise to himself from the start of this year that he would be taking the Cayman Islands at least one place up.
‘At the beginning of the year I made a promise that I would take the island one place up the FIFA rankings. That was my ultimate goal, getting 22 places is a credit not only to me but to the players in particular who have performed tremendously well to achieve this record.
‘This success is not about CIFA and the coaches but about all the sponsors, the stake-holders, families, friends and everyone who has supported the program and the team win or loose.
‘We can get further up that ladder, this is living proof that we can, and all we need do is stick to the task and continue to work harder, the sky is the limit.’
It is clear that the FIFA rankings have started to have meaning in the football community in the Cayman Islands. This ranking is an indicator of the direction football takes whether going backward or forward internationally. Definitely football is on the rise in the Cayman Island.