Mark Ebanks has for years been one of Cayman’s top strikers, and it was only a matter of time before the 22-year-old forward would get his chance abroad.
That opportunity came last week when the prolific scorer with West Bay’s Elite Sports Club joined Fort Lauderdale Strikers for a month’s assessment after impressing them in an initial tryout in September.
Bodden Town’s Theron Wood also went with Ebanks but will have to wait for another chance.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers play in the North American Soccer League, the second tier below Major League Soccer.
Ebanks is being considered for a long-term contract by Strikers and other teams that are owned by Traffic Sports, including Desportivo Brazil.
“On behalf of CONCACAF and as a fellow Caymanian, I congratulate Mark on achieving this great opportunity,” said Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association.
“This is a reminder that opportunities are out there in professional football for talented young players from across the Caribbean if they show the hard work and determination that the game demands.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Ebanks. “I’m looking forward to proving myself and hopefully getting a full contract with the club and helping the team next year.”
Ebanks played for the Cayman Island National team in 2011 during their World Cup qualifying matches and netted two goals in the competition, one each against El Salvador and Dominican Republic. In 2010 he went overseas, playing for semi-pro side Ashford Town in west London, England.
“Mark is a very fast, young player, with a lot of potential,” said Strikers head coach Gunter Kronsteiner. “We look forward to taking a more thorough look at him and evaluating him for the future.”
A thrilled Ebanks added: “I signed the contract two Fridays ago and came up Monday morning. Training is very intense and everyone is fighting for a spot on the first team.”
He is staying at the hotel where the other players are based and is working hard, doing his best to convince the coaches to extend his contract beyond a month.
“I’ve made a lot of improvement on my movement off the ball and my fitness has improved too,” he said.
There is one remaining game in the Strikers’ season, this Saturday against Edmonton, and Ebanks is anxious to beat the other three forwards on trial for that spot.
He believes he is adapting well. “It’s very different to Cayman,” he said. “It’s a professional setup the club has on and off the field, going to schools to meet the children or doing different events.”
Ebanks added that he is proud to be the first Caymanian to make it at the club, even though it’s a short-term contract, but he feels he has shown others that Europe is not the only way to go for football careers.