The Cayman Islands football community came out in solidarity to honour its most celebrated son who is now a superstar in world football.
Jeffrey Webb, recently appointed Confederation of North Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) president and FIFA vice-president, received a fitting reception at a magnificent banquet at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Friday.
The 47-year-old banker has been president of the Cayman Islands Football Association since 1991 and diligently rose up the FIFA ranks in various jobs in all that time.
It culminated in him becoming one of the power brokers in the world game when inaugurated in Budapest, Hungary two months ago.
Webb combined the reception with a retreat over a few days with all the executive members to thrash out many issues that have beset CONCACAF in recent years, resulting in the departure of previous president Trinidadian Jack Warner last year.
Dignitaries who made heart-felt speeches praising Webb included Premier McKeeva Bush, Horace Burrell, the president of Jamaica Football Federation. Bruce Blake, who spoke on behalf of the Cayman Islands Football Association and Minister of Sports Mark Scotland.
To cap it all, Webb received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honour from Premier Bush in front of the 250-plus in attendance.
“I think we’re well on our way to reshaping the future of the confederation,” Webb said. “We discussed such things as CONCACAF corporate governance, processes, ensuring that some of the things that happened in the past will not happen again.
“We discussed grassroots programmes, development programmes and also the sustainability of CONCACAF’s finances is well sound and shows the responsibility that this generation has to take CONCACAF into the future is well on its way.”
Webb introduced the new general-secretary Enrique Sanz whose forte is television contracts.
“My first six weeks as CONCACAF president have been a whirlwind,” Webb said. “It’s a lot of responsibility. The hardest thing has been trying to be in two or three places at the same time!
“We have some big announcements in the next few weeks, including TV contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Our finances are sound and our partners are keen to continue to be involved to continue embracing youth and development.”
Bribery at the top of the FIFA hierarchy is another sensitive topical issue.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” Webb said. “From my perspective it is very unfortunate and very bad for the game.”
Webb had only spent four days in Cayman since his elevation, but he is planning to have a president’s office here soon and also establishing another office besides the New York headquarters to make things more accessible and practical for more of the 40-member countries.
A trip to the Olympics which start next week is obligatory for Webb. “We’ll have Mexico and Honduras there in both men and women and we look forward to bringing home some gold medals.”
Cayman footballers are highly anticipating the future because Webb wants to boost youth and senior programmes here and the rest of the region.
Cayman may get to host a big tournament within a few years but Webb says that the infrastructure needs to improve first, basic things such as more changing rooms at places like the TE McField Annex, Ed Bush stadium and Bodden Town.
“For me, one of the main things I want to do is to get a professional league in the Caribbean. It may be eight or ten teams. I will be naming a task force in the future to look into it. That, of course, will create hope for our players.
“Right now our players get to 17 or 18 years old then lose interest because there’s not another level for them to aspire to. Once we get a professional league in the Caribbean they can aspire to getting into, say Major League Soccer.”