Lloyd’s journey captivates us

Cayman’s sports scene figures to be buzzing about Carli Lloyd throughout Christmas.

The US Olympic heroine showcased her football talents at the Arie Smith Football Camp last week. Organised by the Dream Out Loud Foundation, the Ed Bush field in West Bay served as the camp’s venue.

Among those impressed by Lloyd was Emily Kelly, 18. The Savannah native played as a goalkeeper for Cayman’s national Under-21 team and states more international stars should come to Cayman.

“I got off the plane on Tuesday, the last day of the tournament and I’m here for the Christmas holidays,” Kelly said. “I’m back from school at the University of Richmond in Virginia. It’s going well, though I’ve had no playing time except for one game. I’m working hard to fit a starting spot next season in goal.

“This camp is awesome, we need more events like this. We need more players from abroad try and be supportive of the progress of the football programme here, for both men and women and especially the young ones.”

The daughter of Kirk and Rhonda Kelly was one of many young footballers at the camp. Among the notables were Ramon Sealy, Courtisha Ebanks and Shanice Monteith, all of whom play collegiate football in the US.

Lloyd, 30, met with youngsters aged 7-18 to demonstrate football skills and talk about her career. The New Jersey native is a two-time Olympic gold medallist who scored the gold medal-winning goals in the finals of both the 2008 and the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The former Rutgers University star also played for various clubs in the Women’s Professional Soccer League, with her last squad being the Atlanta Beat in 2010.

Standing by her side through all of those highlights has been longtime boyfriend Brian Hollins, 28. The New Jersey native states it has been a pleasure to see Lloyd’s talent take her to Cayman and around the world.

“We’ve been together 12 years from our high school days at Delran High,” Hollins said. “I was a sophomore, Carli was a junior. This is our first time in Cayman, it’s great. I wish I could stay a few months longer. It’s good food and a great time.

“There are few times I go along to a different country with her, it’s rare. I work at a golf course in Jersey as a golf pro and I used to play minor league golf in Florida.

“Knowing Carli for so long, from school days, I kind of knew she’d make it to a high level. The amount of work dedicated to surpassing herself, the effort, she has really improved to reach the top of the sport.”

Both Lloyd and Hollins made it to Cayman through camp organiser and foundation founder Ariella ‘Arie’ Smith, 22, a West Bayer who is the daughter of Antonio and Glennis Smith. The forward/midfielder played for the Scholars International women’s team and dad Antonio founded Scholars in 1978.

Arie now competes in Atlanta, Georgia for her Kennesaw State University Owls while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She runs the foundation as a means to promote young Caymanians in football. Arie states the camp response was encouraging.

“We had 175 kids that registered on Monday and about the same amount on Tuesday,” Arie said. “It’s a great feeling because this is for them. It’s a great way for kids to play more football.

“Carli is a great role model, who is important to me. If these kids can learn from her, then they can learn from one of the best.

“I’ve been away at school and I decided to come home for awhile. As for pro football, I will await a better opportunity.”

Arie had been offered a professional contract from the Georgia Revolution. Her connection with Lloyd came about through sharing the same practice field, which Lloyd states led to arranging a visit here.

“Social media is huge these days, I have a Facebook and Twitter account,” Lloyd said. “She put in an appearance request. When I saw Cayman Islands, I was thinking, ‘alright, that’s different.’ Arie and I started tweeting and the result was an all-expenses-paid trip here.”

Aside from school and football, Arie has also directed her attention to jet ski racing. Her dad is heavily involved in the Tony’s Toys Racing team and boyfriend Roshad Goff is one of Cayman’s premier racers.

Goff, 25, recently won a world title in Arizona. For the camp he made time to direct Lloyd and Hollins around the Island and states he wholly supports Arie’s efforts.

“I’m happy for her, it’s a great thing,” Goff said. “I support her in everything she does. This is her time.

“It’s one thing to actually meet Carli but she’s humble with her accomplishments. You wouldn’t know unless she told you. That’s big for a high-class athlete in my book.

“As for Arie, she is very much into jet ski racing. She has a jet ski and even raced in 2009 at Jet Around Cayman, going half way.”

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