Many eyes are on Cayman Islands football ahead of its biggest regional junior showcase.
Among them are Roy Wilhelm, the esteemed Dutch youth coach affiliated with Holland-based clubs like PSV Eindhoven. Wilhelm said Cayman is under pressure to exceed expectations as hosts of the 2013 Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football Under-15 Championships on 13-25 August.
“The tournament is great for Cayman,” Wilhelm said. “It’s great to organise that here. It’s good exposure for the island, it puts Cayman football on the map. I hope it will be successful though I’m not sure about that.
“If there’s no success for the Cayman team, that will drop Cayman football back a few years. Without success, people lose faith after a while. It would be hard to recover, get better and stay dedicated.”
Cayman is one of 24 teams taking part in the tournament. The local boys will compete in Group A, which consists of Aruba, Bahamas, St. Maarten, US Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
The first match is against St. Maarten next Tuesday, 13 August, with their other games on 15, 16, 18 and 20 August. All of Cayman’s matches are scheduled to start at 7.30pm at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
The Cayman Islands Football Association recently announced the 18-man provisional Cayman squad for the competition. Representing Cayman will be: Kameron D’Hue (defender), Stephen Rivers (defender), Kory McLean (defender), Matthew Guitard (goalkeeper), Finigan Huffington Williams (goalkeeper), Ryan Jackson (midfielder), Leighton Young Thomas (midfielder), Michael Rae Martin Cruz (midfielder), Joshua McKenzie (forward), Jordon Myles (midfielder), Jordan McLean (midfielder), Cameron Gray (defender/midfielder), Ramon Martinez (midfielder/forward), Ezra Redden (midfielder/forward), Elijah Seymour (midfielder), Zachary Scott (midfielder/forward), Dante Ramoon (defender/midfielder) and Roger Ebanks (forward).
The players are under the watchful eye of technical director Arden Rivers and head coach Dion Brandon.
Wilhelm said those boys are part of a promising generation of local players.
“The Under-17 age group is good. If they keep them together and work on the European style of football with them, they can be special. Those kids need this competition. You have to get more kids in football as they’re playing cricket and other sports. Growing up, it was not like that. There are too many distractions in this day and age.
“I’ve been here four or five months with Cayman Academy Sports Club and people need to go step by step. David Lee is the latest as he is going to Holland as a goalkeeper. I’ve recruited Zachary Scott in the past.
“I find the kids here, as a whole, need to be exposed. There’s more to do with football than this Island. It always helps when you work hard. Most of the top kids in Holland are hard workers.
“Kids are often in a battle with the coaches in Holland, it’s competitive and everyone is battling for the best chance. You can see that when kids only pick the best when doing scrimmages and friendlies. In Cayman, they would only pick their friends, the kids don’t care first about talent.”
Wilhelm was here last week for the association’s annual Dutch football camp at Camana Bay. The camp drew dozens of youngsters, aged 6-18, with the focus being on football fundamentals.
Among this year’s participants were Vincent Lachance, 14 and Philip-Andrew Sciamonte, 13. Both youngsters said the CONCACAF championships will be a positive for local football, regardless of the results.
“Coaches know we play a lot slower,” Lachance said. “We have to build up the pace to beat players easier and faster in international games. I think it is a very good competition to have here. I hope we play to see if we can get to the Under-17 World Cup.”
“With the Under-15 tournament, I’m glad it’s in Cayman,” Sciamonte said. “We can, at the very least, use it to raise our tourism numbers. It should be a good competition to watch with all of the competing teams coming here.”