Funding for an upcoming football tournament remains a lingering issue.
While the private sector has stepped up, the Cayman Islands government has withdrawn funds to back Cayman staging the Confederation of Central American and Caribbean Association Football Women’s Under-20 Championships on Jan. 9-19, 2014. As Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden says, government has already provided a multimillion-dollar boost for local football.
“We did not fund them simply because we did not have the funding,” Bodden said. “We have been spending millions on CONCACAF prepping and there was no budget for prepping (the) team. We gave CIFA their annual grant as well. We are under severe budget restrictions, but yet we keep getting more and more requests. (We) can only do so much.”
Next month’s tournament will take place at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex with the top three finishers earning berths into the Women’s Under-20 World Championship next August in Canada. Defending champions United States were drawn in Group A along with Guatemala, Jamaica and Costa Rica. Hosts Cayman are in Group B against Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras and Mexico.
Caymanian Jeffrey Webb – the CONCACAF president and a FIFA vice president – said government declined a request for $100,000 to help the Cayman team pay for last week’s international training camp that featured stops in Florida and Costa Rica. Webb said the lack of public sector support is appalling.
“I think we must all recognize that historically – as a people, as a country – we have never invested in programs,” Webb said. “We’ve always been fine investing in infrastructure – building stadiums, lights and so forth. But when it comes to investing in our people, when it comes to investing in our programs, unfortunately we have failed. We’ve not only failed now, but we’ve failed historically over the last 20 years, at least that I’ve been involved.
“We have to campaign a change in that, to have investment in the people. To me, it says we can’t prepare you and we can’t support you. I thank all of the private sponsors…it is an investment. It’s about creating opportunities. I think the number one priority for a football executive is to create opportunities.”
January’s Under-20 competition comes about five months after Cayman hosted the CONCACAF Under-15 Boys Championship. Honduras emerged victorious over Guatemala with El Salvador placing third. Cayman was narrowly eliminated in the group stages, after winning four of its five matches – defeating St. Maarten, 12-0; U.S. Virgin Islands, 4-0; Bahamas, 3-1; and Aruba, 4-2. The only loss was to Bermuda, 3-0, the eventual fourth-place team.
In all, the tournament featured more than 400 players between the ages of 13 and 15 at Grand Cayman’s various football venues. National teams from 24 member associations competed in Cayman, making it the largest CONCACAF competition of its kind to be played in a single country. It created a multimillion-dollar boost to the economy during low season for local tourism. The Cayman government was a major backer of that competition, injecting millions into the event.