Football refs in the Cayman Islands are statistically the second fittest and most efficient in the Caribbean behind Jamaica. High praise indeed and it’s not just the men who are attracting the kudos.
One woman official, Carline Reid-Willis, has the distinction of being the first woman international referee to be named out of Cayman.
It happened two weeks ago when two FIFA instructors were here to assess the referees. Reid-Willis, who is a physical education teacher at John Gray High School, passed with flying colours.
“I feel great,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment. I’d been working towards it since 2009. I started refereeing in Jamaica and when I came here three years ago I stopped. But then I realised through being a school teacher that a lot of my kids are involved in football so I thought by getting involved I could be a good mentor to them.
“Some of the kids here wanted to play but they weren’t aware of the rules and some had behavioural problems. I decided that if I got involved then I could channel their energies in a positive way. The kids are warm. They are nice. Sometimes you have your challenges but you have to know how to deal with it.”
She first got involved in football when attending GC Foster College in Spanish Town playing as a goalkeeper and representing the Under-23 national team. She also played in goal in field hockey for the national team.
Around 10 years ago, at the age of 23, she decided it was better to get into officiating because she lived in a rural part of Jamaica and there weren’t many officials available. Already a mum then with her son Tareque Simpson, now 11, the long journeys into Kingston to play games was another factor why she gave up playing.
Until now Reid-Willis always worked as an assistant ref, running the line. She handled her first men’s match on Sunday in charge from the centre. “I can handle it,” she laughed.
“When you’re on the field they argue but when you come off you realise that they didn’t mean anything serious, so you just have to know how to deal with situations.”