Cayman’s football scene is as vibrant as ever and with the Under-17 girls doing so well in the recent World Cup qualifiers the women are making waves around the Caribbean too.
In the splendour of Luca restaurant over a sumptuous lunch, Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, is in a buoyant mood despite suffering from flu.
‘We’re heavily focused on our domestic competition,’ he says. ‘The Premier League is really going strong. I believe the competition has heavily increased this year. Teams are very competitive and, of course, Scholars International, have continued to surprise everyone this year.
‘Our Foster’s First Division has not only increased in competitive terms but also participants. With the increase we’ve seen in the Foster’s League we would look to maybe next season of creating a reserve league.
‘That would involve taking the ‘B’ teams from the Foster’s league and capping that one off at eight or 10 teams and then creating a reserve team league of eight from the Premier League.
‘We also have our youth leagues starting up, Under-13, U-15 and U-17, so this is a busy time of year for Cayman football.’
Webb is perturbed that this paper recently ran a letter from someone claiming to be Roy Ebanks – not coach Huta of Future – who castigated the whole football setup here and criticised the showpiece, newly built Centre of Excellence in Prospect.
Another point made in the letter was that Latinos were relegated from the Premier League for not developing a youth side and Roma were fortunate to stay up in their place.
‘The letter is baseless,’ insists Webb. ‘The fact is Latinos as well as all the other clubs were given four years’ notice to comply with the requirement.
‘A few years ago when North Side was in trouble for not having a youth team, they were suspended. At that time women’s football was allowed to form as part of the group for the men and that’s how Latinos survived it.
‘Unfortunately, two years ago Latinos were given notice and have had to suffer the consequences for it. But ultimately we must realise that the clubs of Cayman are a reflection of the communities.
‘And within those communities not only do we play senior football, we also have to develop grassroots programmes.’
Webb wants to see more local players go abroad to raise their own standards, like Calvin Jefford did recently when he joined Boys Town in Kingston, Jamaica. He feels, that in turn will boost the capabilities of the national side.
‘Cayman football is doing well at Premiership level but really our players need to be challenged. The Jamaica league, obviously, is a good challenge for Calvin. He’s done well since joining Boys Town and it’s a great opportunity for him. It’s a good opportunity for other players to go there as well and test themselves.’
Webb is looking forward to next year and will be hard pressed to top what’s gone down in the past two years; highlights included Romario’s visit for Lee Ramoon’s testimonial, Sepp Blatter and many of FIFA’s top brass over for the official opening of the Centre of Excellence and the visit of two English Premiership managers in Alex McLeish and Sam Allarydce.
‘For us next year we’re going to continue along with education and development and continue to invest in our coaches, players, referees and administrators and we’re going to continue to develop our infrastructure.
‘One of the things I’m looking at is the challenges in women’s football. In the first quarter of next year we’ll be having a women’s symposium under women’s development of football.’