It seemed as if every other person was from the Honduran community at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Sunday – and they all had beaming smiles.
That’s because Honduras won the inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 championship, beating Guatemala 2-1 in a terrific showpiece match in front of 2,000.
Captained by Gabriel Ortiz, Honduras completed the tournament with a perfect unbeaten record in six matches, scoring 22 goals and conceding only two.
They were the pre-tournament favorites and at no point throughout the two weeks did they look anything but potential champions.
Both Honduras goals came from the sweet left boot of midfielder Darixon Vuelto, the first from a penalty in the sixth minute and the other in the 51st minute.
Vuelto was also Man of the Match and voted Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Honduras also boasted the tournament’s best keeper, Wilmer Martinez. Their other stars included the tireless midfielders Italo Ramos and Jorge Alvarez.
Guatemala’s scorer was Mario Rodas in the 24th minute.
El Salvador took third place by defeating Bermuda 2-0. Scorers were Henry Reyes (40th) and Kevin Ramos (65th). Man of the Match was Bermuda’s Amar Lewis.
Cayman did well in the competition, coming fifth of the 22 teams and having the top goal scorer, Leighton Thomas Jr., who struck 11 times.
Cayman lost only once in their five games and that was to semi-finalists Bermuda. No disgrace then for not making the semis.
Guatemala harried and pressed toward the end, but they didn’t quite have the finishing ability to make their approach play count.
Nevertheless, their technical director Juan Manuel Funes, said, “I’m really happy and satisfied even though my team didn’t win.
“This is a great experience for them and I want to thank CONCACAF for taking the initiative and creating this tournament for them. Overall we’re happy but a little disappointed we didn’t win.”
“We’re very happy to have won the first CONCACAF Under-15 championship, that’s very important for us,” said Honduras technical director Carlos Tabora. “Overall, we feel great, thank you very much.”
Caymanian businessman Jeffrey Webb, the CONCACAF president who created the tournament, said he was overjoyed. “This is incredible. I trusted in my own country, Cayman, and I think they delivered.
“They did a great job, the local federation and the organizing committee, the sponsors and fans – everyone has responded tremendously.
“It has been a huge success, but most of all it’s about respecting our football and our youth and giving them an opportunity.”
Webb added that although Cayman is relatively new to FIFA and CONCACAF, it has organized football for over 100 years and is mature in that aspect.
He congratulated all 300 volunteers for their contributions and added it wasn’t about him nor CONCACAF but showing what Cayman can do.
“The future for CONCACAF is very bright when it comes to quality of football on the field,” Webb said. “Some of these kids are just 14 years old and some are turning 15, so it bodes well for the future.
“It also reaffirms our commitment to the future in terms of development, and I’m sure we’re going to kick start the development of CONCACAF.
“We’re not going to wait for an Under-17 or Under-20 World Cup because we want to develop our players to be the best they can be.
“The goal for CONCACAF is to win the World Cup.”
3rd: El Salvador
Fair Play Award:
Leighton Thomas Jr. (Cayman Islands, 11 goals)
Wilmer Martinez (Honduras)
Most Valuable Player of the Tournament:
Darixon Vuelto (Honduras)