Cayman’s best under-15 footballers are back in serious training for the CONCACAF tournament here next month, which will pit them against the best youngsters in the region.
The inaugural CONCACAF U-15 Championship is the brainchild of Caymanian Jeffrey Webb, who is president of CONCACAF and also a FIFA vice president. He values the development of grassroots and youth football as the most important aspect for future success at senior level.
The tournament consists of 24 teams in four groups. Cayman are in with Aruba, Bahamas, St. Maarten, US Virgin Islands and Bermuda in Group A.
Group B matches tournament favourites Jamaica with Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Lucia and Belize.
Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago are Group C favourites and they have fixtures against Curacao, Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Kitts.
Haiti and Puerto Rico are the outstanding sides in Group D, but they have to get past Martinique, El Salvador, St. Vincent and Antigua and Barbuda.
The tournament runs from 13-25 August at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, Ed Bush Stadium and TE McField Annex.
Getting past the group stages will be tough for the inexperienced Cayman side, but team manager Owen Dinnall is confident that, through their hard work in preparation and the advantage of home support, they can do that.
Cayman played two matches against Honduran professional side Club Deportivo Victoria two weeks ago, winning the first game 2-0 but losing the second 3-0. Nevertheless, it was excellent preparation for the youngsters.
“I was very pleased with the players attitude and the performance they put in,” said Dinnall.
“The team did well for their first international match. We now see where the players execute what they have learnt in training and areas where they need to improve. Overall, it was a good test for the boys.”
Dinnall was impressed with many players and was especially pleased with the form of Leighton Thomas, Dante Ramoon, Kameron D’Hue in defence, the captain Kory Mclean who is also a defender and the forward Zachary Scott. Keeper Livingston Bailey also showed good form.
“Our strengths were keeping possession of the ball, defending as a team, positive communication, team discipline and off the ball tracking of opponents,” Dinnall said. “Our weakness was [a lack of] creativity and lack of fitness levels in the second game.”
This week in training, they have been focusing on creativity in midfield and in front of goal and increasing their fitness levels.
“I expect Cayman to come out of the group because the team is talented, focused and ready for this challenge,” said Dinnall. “A great achievement in itself would be to reach the semi-finals.
“The players are ecstatic about the tournament and looking forward to representing the country well.
“We have mentioned to them that this an opportunity for them to show all they have learnt and impress the country and any of the visiting scouts.”