Red cards for teenage recruits

The football scene has grown significantly locally in recent years which has led to a chronic shortage of referees and officials and even youth matches being postponed.

But a new recruitment drive to introduce teenagers to officiating as an alternative or addition to playing has been launched and early signs are it will be a resounding success.

They have been recruited by Alfredo Whittaker, Cayman’s most experienced official who is the head of the referees’ department. He also has responsibilities with CONCACAF and the Cayman Islands Football Association.

The fact that they get paid a $10 fee and the sponsors are Burger King is an extra inducement.

Ryan Burke, 15, Sean Whewell, 15, Jamal ‘Peanut’ Lawson, 15, Thompson Hew, 14, Paris Ebanks, 16, Nakai Ebanks, 16 and Shamar Hayles, 16 are the latest recruits.

Lawson said: “I’ve become a referee to learn more about the sport. I’m dedicated and have a good attitude and I’ll be able to handle the pressure.”

Paris said: “I’m doing this willingly because I like to help others and also love getting to know the sport more.

“I used to play for Future about three years ago as a goalkeeper but I quit after breaking my ankle. So now I’ve decided to start back in football as a referee.

“It may be pressurised but I think I can make it through.”

Whittaker said: “We have a very talented group of young referees. I think we’re the only ones in the Caribbean that have this age group of officials.

“It is a long-term project. The whole idea now is to retain them and looking forward to four years from now to start to get them involved in the international arena.”

The novices are starting off in the Primary Football League and will build from there, eventually next season graduating to the Under-13 leagues.

They will receive weekly technical and practical training and familiarising themselves with the laws.

Whittaker said: “I’m pretty sure with the working group of instructors and assessors here we will be able to keep them away from distractions.

“Once they start getting comfortable on the field their confidence will grow. The most important thing is to get them to feel that they are appreciated and gaining the respect from coaches, parents and players.

“We have launched a very aggressive campaign of recruiting referees and by the end of 2013 we’re looking forward to having at least 25-30 young referees and bring our numbers up to 50 or 60 for senior competition.

“We’re not just looking at numbers. Quality is very important. My responsibilities include bringing the level of officiating up.”

They have been recruited by Alfredo Whittaker, Cayman’s most experienced official who is the head of the referees’ department.