Cayman’s national football team has had a yo-yo time in the two years since coach Carl Brown arrived exactly two years ago but at least the new Centre of Excellence will give his programme the sort of impetus it deserves.
As Cayman’s technical director, Brown is pleased with the overall progress and the Centre of Excellence in Prospect epitomising the ambition of Jeff Webb, the Cayman Islands Football Association president.
It was opened by FIFA president Sepp Blatter last month and is intended to not just be a great facility for Cayman-based players but also a magnet for professional clubs worldwide.
Football stadia have been refurbished in all five districts since Brown arrived. Superb facilities to match world class ambitions.
‘For its size, Cayman has now got far better facilities than the rest of the Caribbean,’ says the former Jamaica international who was five times head coach of the Reggae Boyz over 23 years before he arrived here in July 2007.
‘The Centre of Excellence will be magnificent when completed and I hope it serves the youngsters well. After all, it is for them. It is an example of Cayman heading in the right direction. I hope it will be up and running as soon as possible.
‘My two years here have on the whole been good and I’ve relished the experience. It is so much different from Jamaica.
‘I’m encouraged by the improvement in the attitude of the players. Before, they didn’t want to train but now they’re full of enthusiasm.’
Unfortunately, Brown, 58, feels the programme has faltered through lack of activity.
‘So far this year we’ve only had one international (against Jamaica last month). It’s not the sort of thing as the technical director you expect. I’m disappointed in that respect but hope that the latter part of ’09 will be better.
‘The Under-23s will soon have to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers and the seniors for the Digicel Cup so I hope we can get some games on the back end of this year.
‘Last year was far busier and the highlight for me was us getting to the second round of the Digicel Cup. It was a big achievement. Our participation in Bermuda when we got a draw in a World Cup qualifier surprised everyone, even our own players.
‘The weight of expectation took its toll in the return leg here when we lost and our lack of experience showed.’
Brown is pleased with how some of the youngsters have emerged. ‘Rene Carter tops the list, definitely,’ he says. ‘He’s given me a lot of pleasure to see how he’s developed. His attitude in training is excellent too.
‘Others who have impressed me include Jedd Ebanks despite picking up a serious injury. I remember how outstanding he was in the first game against Bermuda. He was probably man of the match that day.
‘I was also pleased to bring back the senior players Garth Anderson and Tom Elliot who have led from the front and been a perfect example to the younger players.
‘Calvin Jefford has done well but his discipline is poor. He is clearly the best talent but his attitude needs to improve.
‘The goalkeeper Jermaine ‘Wacky’ Brown had served us well until he broke his arm. He never let us down. His absence from the Scholars International team showed the impact he had on the team.
‘At least he is on the mend. We had a goalkeeping coaching session last week and it was good to see Jermaine diving around, particularly on that left arm.’
Brown also singled out Theron Wood and Jason Ebanks as players to watch out for in the future.
‘There are also plenty of bright prospects in Bodden Town and Elite, champions of their respective leagues. Luigi Hernandez is the brightest of them. He has the makings of going into pro football as long as he keeps his feet on the ground.’
Of the women’s game he says: ‘With Women United we’ve seen them improve greatly. They’ve spent a lot of time together and they have excellent support staff and family. We now have to measure ourselves against the rest of the Caribbean.’
Brown feels that although strictly amateur, the senior players deserve some payments, even if it’s just gas money to get them to training.
‘Jeff is looking at it. They work hard to leave work and train and I feel deserve financial support, no matter how small. I’m working hard to get that.
‘What is happening in the rest of the world is no secret. The players know that others are getting financial help from their private sectors and governments. They feel they work hard too and deserve some reward.’