England and Liverpool football legend John Barnes recently hunted for football talent in Panama.
The second leg of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics came to a close last week when Barnes, the Kick Start Head Coach, chose the top three boys from the Central American country.
After tens of thousands of aspiring young footballers tried out through a series of local clinics, the top 30 were put through their paces by Barnes. The best three have now secured their place on the week-long Digicel Academy programme in October, which Barnes states will be intense.
“They are going to play among the best of the best of their peers so they are going to have to step it up – it will be interesting to see how they cope with that,” Barnes said.
The three boys, Evord Castillo, Kevin Gómez and Oshuan Breary, are all 16-years-old and they will now prepare for their week of training when they will be coached alongside their peers from throughout the Caribbean and the US at the Digicel Academy. The Academy – which takes place in Barbados this year – will see the top 30 boys from across seven countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the US train for one week under top coaches from Chelsea Football Club.
Barnes states the talent pool in Panama made choosing the top three players difficult.
“As is to be expected, the talent was very high over the last two days and similarly to previous years, I could have chosen six or seven boys to go through to the Digicel Academy. While it was a difficult choice, I am happy with the three who are going through and I am sure they will get the very best from the experience.”
For the record, Barnes once served as the head coach of the Jamaican national football team. He may be best remembered in the Cayman Islands for leading the Reggae Boyz against the Cayman national team and local club Latinos FC at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in 2008 for a set of friendly matches.
The contests were part of a one-week training camp for the Jamaicans ahead of their semi-final round of Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football qualification for the 2010 World Cup against Canada. Joining Barnes on the sidelines as assistant coach was former national captain and midfield legend Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore.
The Reggae Boyz would return to Grand Cayman in 2009, with Whitmore as coach after Barnes returned home to England. The Jamaica Football Federation did not renew Barnes’ seven month contract. Barnes would then coach English League One outfit Tranmere Rovers.