The Cayman Islands men’s football scene was another eventful one in 2012 but the biggest news happened off the pitch, not on it.
That’s because Jeffrey Webb made the gigantic leap from chief of the local football league to become president of the regional football scene, CONCACAF.
Webb had actually served on many FIFA sub-committees so was well placed to succeed the discredited Jack Warner to take the lead role and also become a FIFA vice-president as well.
That means Webb, 48, is one of the most powerful men in world football now, a fitting testament to the huge respect he has built up over the two decades he has been involved in international football administration.
Cayman congratulated Webb with a big reception at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, attended by McKeeva Bush, Mark Scotland and a host of dignitaries.
Bruce Blake is now the Cayman Islands Football Association first vice-president having landed the post in October.
Premier League action returns next week after the Christmas break and four teams are jockeying for supremacy – Scholars International, Elite, George Town and Bodden Town.
Last season Scholars International regained the Premier League title from West Bay rivals Elite who were runners-up and those two teams shared cup spoils. Scholars beat George Town in the FA Cup final and Elite defeated Bodden Town in the Digicel Cup.
Bodden Town are top with 19 points after eight games. Elite are second only on goal difference and Scholars trail four points behind and George Town are one point behind them.
Newly promoted Academy Sports Club are holding their own in fifth spot on 13 points.
Cayman Athletic are sixth on six points, North Side, the other promoted team, are struggling in seventh spot on four points and Tigers are bottom with only one point.
The Cayman Islands Football Association season kicked off at the TE McField Annex with the Charity Shield. Scholars International beat Elite 2-1 through goals from Mark Ebanks and DeMarley Howell.
Rene Carter hit Elite’s goal. It was refereed by Mitchell St. Clair who was named Referee of the Year at the CIFA awards at the Westin Hotel the night before.
In an earlier game, visiting Honduran side CD Vida, sent their Under-15s to take on Academy’s U-15s. The Hondurans won 1-0. The previous night CD Vida played a West Bay youth team at the Ed Bush stadium and won 3-2. The West Bay scorers were Jevon Ebanks and Jonathan Anglin.
Both matches were organised by West Bay Sports Foundation who are admirably promoting youth football in the Cayman Islands.
Scholars had a huge squad last term which many regarded as the main reason for their success.
But Mark Ebanks has left Scholars for Elite which means he has played for all three West Bay sides in the last couple of years having started with Future.
Elite lost inspirational players Alex Belcher and Dwayne ‘Gaza’ Wright in the summer to Bodden Town, a big blow.
That strengthened BT considerably. Wright has hit two hat-tricks and scored nine by early December and hopes to be top scorer for a third consecutive season. Elite’s Hank Parchment is second top scorer with six.
Elite’s brilliant midfielder Rene Carter was Player of the Year.
Banaca Boys continued to dominate the five-a-side season and hope to this year play in international competition.
Masters football was revived after years of absence and it was nice to see Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour take the initiative and organise the brief, five-team season.
Scholars International masters side, like their younger counterparts in the Premier League, were dominant.
Scholars won all four league matches to take that competition comfortably and then beat Bodden Town 4-1 in the FA Cup final at the TE McField Annex to snatch a double.
Scholars scorers were Dwight Moxam, Devon James, Louis ‘Sugar’ Brown and Brian Hydes. Emmanuel Brown scored for BT.
Mark Beckford is the Scholars player-coach but because the team gelled so well, his services were not needed on the pitch. A big Barcelona fan, Beckford likens his contribution more to Pep Guardiola than Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We’ve got a dedicated set of guys who stepped up to the plate, found their focus and had fun with it,” Beckford said. “This competition should definitely continue because it shows the younger players the level of football we’re capable of.
“The organisation of the matches had a few teething problems and quirks, but that was to be expected. In the end, everything went well and it was played in a friendly spirit and there were no hostilities.”
The matches were sponsored by the West Bay Sports Foundation, Ministry of Sports and No.1 Shoe Shop. Dwayne Seymour said: “Everybody hoped it could last longer and are thirsting for it to start back.”
Primary School football, sponsored by CUC, is thriving, as is the Heineken Sunday League.
Scholars player-coach Chris Douglas and Future player-coach Olsen Bush organised the first skills orientated 4×4 over two session in October and that was a great success and should be repeated.
In the first round of the Digicel Cup, Elite’s march into the semi-finals was a comfortable one, beating last year’s finalists Bodden Town 3-0 on Sunday.
Marvin Boothe gave Elite the perfect start and strike master Hank Parchment hit two.
Cayman Athletic came through their Digicel Cup first round game against Academy easily too, thanks to a Matthew Suberan hat-trick in their 3-1 win. Jonah Ebanks is finding the net regularly for Academy and he got their goal.
George Town are cup specialists and they showed that cruising through with a 5-2 victory against North Side. Tex Whitelocke hit a hat-trick for George Town and the others came from Donald ‘Naddy’ Solomon and Andre McFarlane. Guiton King and Marvin Grant scored North Side’s goals.
Scholars International squeezed through against the young and inexperienced Tigers 3-2. Tom Elliot, Oneil Taylor and a Nahun Rodriguez goal in the dying seconds gave Scholars victory. Tigers goals came from Alfredo Challenger and Brad Scott.
Academy may be the Premier League’s newcomers but they are certainly not struggling to establish themselves in the top flight.
Two Academy players are actually amongst the league’s top scorers. Emmanuel Ricoh Brown and Jonah Ebanks have both scored five times this season.
Academy recorded the biggest surprise of the season last month at the TE McField Annex, beating Scholars International 2-1.
League action resumes on Sunday 13 January with the games at North Side starting at 5pm between Cayman Athletic and Academy. The 7pm games is between North Side and Scholars International.
At the TE McField Annex, the early game is between Tigers and Elite and the later match George Town and Bodden Town.