Hiram to achieve their goals

Cayman’s excellent policy of
placing young footballers in colleges on scholarships to ensure they at least
get a good education even if they don’t make careers in the sport is paying off
again.

Six more left this week to attend
Hiram College in Ohio, thanks partly to the efforts of Academy Football Club
President Avolyn Tatum whose son Joseph is in his final year as a student
there. Academy coach Winston Chung-Fah also puts a lot of energy into preparing
players to reach entry level, as well as Elite and Bodden Town coaches and
administrators.

Another Academy player, Trevor
Gibbs, was also a student at Hiram until last year. Three from Elite Football
Club qualified – Benjamin Cupid, Donovan Godet and Jason Ebanks – and the other
three are with Academy — Alajandro Ruiz, Jamael Welcome and Travers McLean.

None of the scholarships are full
but they are all worth between $15,000 and $18,000 a year and the students’ families
have to make up the difference to $22,000,

The players met at the Cayman
Islands Football Association offices in Prospect last Friday and none other
than Minister of Sport Mark Scotland attended the reception. He said: “I
congratulate them. I’ve seen them playing for a long time and the step they’re
making is one of the biggest ones they’re making in Cayman football. When you
start playing sport – and in this case it is football – you always set goals
and one of the main steps you can achieve is to get an education through
football.

“Whenever you start playing
football you think you’re going to become a professional. But in Cayman that’s
a huge, huge step which not many people have yet attained. But one step which a
lot have achieved is to gain an education through it. Even if you become a
professional footballer anyway, should something happen to you, what would you
have to fall back on? Your education.”

Scotland used the example of the
coach who awarded their scholarships, Everton ‘Sarge’ Edwards, having to fall
back on his education to earn a living after a football injury thwarted his
playing career.

“We’re really proud of you,”
Scotland said to the players. “This is probably bittersweet for your clubs
because when you leave the island they’re losing very good players but they are
also very proud to see you go. It’s going to be good for your football. Most of
you play for your national team. Any international exposure, even at this
level, benefits you and our national programme when you get back.

“You’re representing your clubs but
also Cayman and you’re even bigger role models now for the youngsters in Cayman
than you have been already. I congratulate Avolyn and coach Chung and Academy
for always trying to get places for our young players. They’ve been doing this
for years and it’s great to see the number of our young players achieving
this.”

Avolyn said: “I can’t add much to
what Mr. Scotland said but I just want to reiterate to the players that they
must remember to set a good example and be good ambassadors because if they
don’t, the young ones coming after will be denied.” 

McLean, 19, is a right back who
will be finishing his degree in accounting. “I would like to go pro in football
one day but I also really want to be an accountant when I come back in two
years.”

Welcome, 16, a right winger, will
be majoring in computer science and minoring in communication. “I look forward
to this opportunity as a tool to further my education,” he said.

Cupid, 22, a right back, will be
there for two years to study financial management. At the end of two years he
hopes to get his bachelor’s degree and then move on to a master’s.
“Football-wise, I want to go as far as it can take me. Being a pro would be a
dream, I’ll just see how it goes.”

Ebanks, 21, a midfielder, is
studying accounting and finance. “Right now I just want to mostly focus on
school because I’ve reached the age where clubs are looking at younger
players.” But he still hasn’t given up hope of making it as a footballer.

Godet, 24, striker is studying
accounting and business. He admits that his age may be against him but looks
forward to playing division one college level and adds: “If I get a chance to
move up, I’ll take it.”

Alastair Kay of CIFA said: “On
behalf of CIFA we wish the six players the best of luck. It’s one of the
biggest goals for us at CIFA and those involved in football in the Cayman
Islands to get to the level where we have professional Caymanian players
overseas. The six have a great opportunity to represent Cayman at a college level
in America and show them what Cayman footballers are really made of. Hopefully,
they’ll help put Cayman on the map and help create opportunities for youngsters.
The college system in the States is one of the best in the world and a feeder
system for Major League Soccer. It’s great to see the discipline and dedication
of the clubs really pay off.”

SPORTShiramJasonSTORY

Ebanks is an outstanding Elite player.
Photo: Ron Shillingford
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