Playing international football for your country eludes even multimillionaire players, but for some teenagers in the Cayman Islands that will become a reality next month.
The inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 Championship runs from 14 to 25 August at three venues in Grand Cayman and the best kids are honing their technique, tactics and fitness to be in optimum shape for the games.
They played two matches over the weekend against crack Honduran side Club Deportivo Victoria, winning the first 2-0, but losing the second game at the T.E. McField Annex the following night.
Some of the Cayman players that caught the eye included Randolph Jackson, 15, from Bodden Town, a skilful and quick-footed forward and Ryan Jackson, a 15-year-old midfielder with Future Sports Club.
Sunset’s Kieran Hindress is only 14, but he is impressing as a forward, as is Ezra Redden, another 14-year-old and product of the excellent Bodden Town junior programme.
Leighton Thomas really stands out with his orange tuft of hair, but the gifted midfielder is also distinctive for his bravery and clever distribution of the ball and, at 14, evidently has immense potential.
Thomas and Academy’s Zachary Scott were the Cayman scorers on Saturday. Both look certain to be in the final squad, as does centre-back Dante Ramoon. These three will probably form the nucleus of the side along with Kameron D’Hue.
Despite the loss, technical director Ardin “Cheeky” Rivers was satisfied with the overall performance.
“Our strengths in the two games were that we played as a unit, defensively and in attack,” Rivers said. “Our weakness is that we’ve got to be more creative – and also score goals!
“We had a lot of outstanding players in the duration of the two games,” he added. “Dante Ramoon was brilliant in defence and Kameron D’Hue was very impressive. Also, Leighton Thomas stood out in both games, he played excellent, as did Ryan Jackson. In the first game, Elijah Seymour did well also.”
Rivers and fellow coaches are now assessing what will be their final squad from analysing the last three months. Then it is a training camp in Panama from 25 to 29 July.
So there is no expense spared by the Cayman Islands Football Association in preparation for this huge tournament, an initiative of CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, the Caymanian who was unanimously voted into office a year ago and also become a FIFA vice president in the process.
Rivers said they are considering around 30 players for the squad and this week they will whittle it down to 22. After the tournament, the same players will be retained for long-term.
“We have some very good teams coming from Central America and around the region, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago,” Rivers said. “They will all be a very good test for us.
“This is really an experimental tournament and we have to put things into perspective. It’s all about development. It’s not just a three-month exercise, it is a two to four-year development plan.
“We want to start with the youths and for them to improve we need the type of games we had against Deportivo Victoria. It’s not always about results, it’s about development.”