Now they are in seventh heaven

The Cayman girls’ Under-17s came
back in triumph from the World Cup qualifiers brimming with confidence for the
next challenge.

Okay, they lost 7-0 to hosts Costa
Rica and a whopping 13-0 to the mighty USA, the world’s no.1 team, but bounced
back with a 1-0 victory over Haiti through a late header by Alyssa Chin.

At the Owen Roberts Airport on
Monday family, friends, the media and the football fraternity congregated to
welcome the girls home. Minister of Sport Mark Scotland took time out from his
busy schedule to greet them.

Cayman are now officially the
Caribbean’s No.2 side behind Jamaica, an amazing achievement for such a tiny
island when considering Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba have millions to
draw from. Cayman’s admirable team spirit and deep faith in God has taken them
a long way.

All Cayman’s coaching members deserve
credit, especially head coach Bobby McLaren and the girls’ technical director
Thiago Cunha. Props also to the government and football president Jeffrey Webb
for providing the funds and resources for them to get this far.

McLaren said: “The results speak
for themselves. Against Costa Rica and the USA we were out of our league. The
programmes those countries have we learned something from and took it into the
Haiti game.

“The most important thing from the
trip was the character of these girls. Not many teams can go down by 20 goals
in two games and come out and find the character needed to beat a team that no
Cayman team has ever beaten.

“So we are still good in the
Caribbean and took a major step. We learned perseverance and endurance and what
we need to do is a little more than we are doing right now.”

How does McLaren feel about being so
highly ranked in the Caribbean now? “I feel like I’m in seventh heaven, Ron!

“This was a learning experience and
part of our growth and development. It’s only sad that we couldn’t get more
practice games against top opposition before we actually went to the
tournament.

“I think that moving forward we’ll
have to play a lot more games.”

Technical director Thiago Cunha
said: “The things these girls did was unbelievable. We played against the best
teams in the world and just have to play more games now to improve.

“Some of these girls will be able
to play again in the next World Cup qualifiers in 2011. We just have to keep
working hard and hopefully some of them will get scholarships.”

Alyssa Chin, 15, took a lot of
pleasure from scoring the most important goal of her life.

The Haitians had lost five players
and a coach in January’s earthquake so there was a lot of emotions swirling in
every match they played.

“The best part of it was after the
Haiti match we came together and donated some money to the Haitians,” Chin
said. “I thought that was really touching.

“Going into the match against Haiti
we had to think that football came first before anything else and then after we
were friends.

“From the Costa Rica and US games
we learnt how important it is to play together as a team and never stopped
believing.”

Cayman football’s technical
director Carl Brown would love to see the same success with his men’s and boys’
sides.

He said: “What this type of
performance we got from the girls is a benchmark for all the teams that represent
the Cayman Islands.

“Just to see the delight on their
faces when they won was fantastic. This is the standard that has been set and
everybody needs to try and emulate.

“I was impressed with their
courage. I knew they were going to be up against tough opposition but there is
no way the US would play Cayman apart from a competition like that.

“So it was a great honour for
Cayman to participate in a tournament where the world’s no.1 team is also in.
We knew it was going to be tough for them but I’m certain it is a lesson they
will take along with them throughout their careers.”

SPORTSu17STORY

Everyone in this picture made a significant contribution to their success.
Ron Shillingford
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