With Caymanian businessman Jeffrey Webb settled in his posts as president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and a vice-president of FIFA, the local football scene has benefited enormously.
Webb was elevated to the top posts in May 2012 and, once he had taken stock of what needed to be done in the CONCACAF region, focused on helping Cayman football with admirable effect.
The biggest tournament of any sport in Grand Cayman this year was the inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 spectacle which attracted 22 teams. Honduras won that, beating Guatemala 2-1. Cayman were fifth, boasting the tournament’s top scorer in Leighton Thomas Jr. who grabbed 11 goals. Hundreds of players, coaches, officials and administrators came in August for an average of 10 days and, in the process, boosted the sports tourism dollars by millions at a lethargic time in the tourism industry.
Another big CONCACAF tournament is on its way next month here, with the staging of the women’s U-20 championships from Jan. 9-19.
Cayman will be confident from the fact that most players have come through the excellent women’s program which saw them do so well at U-17 level a couple of years ago.
Many are now playing at top college level in the United States so will be far from overawed in this tournament.
Players like Shanice Monteith, Shanelle Frederick and captain Brianna Hydes will inspire Cayman against the best teams in the region.
Domestically, Bodden Town were the dominant football team this year, winning the Premier League with ease and the FA Cup comfortably. It was all in memory of the late Gerome “Bird” Graham who died at training suddenly of an undetected heart problem a year and a half ago. Bird’s team-mate and brother Kareem James was an emotional winner of those two titles.
Scholars International were unable to hold onto their Premier League title but were consolidated with the Digicel Cup.
George Town have always been a quality side, doing well in the cups but lacking consistency in the league. Not anymore. They are leading the Premier League so far and will be hard to knock off the top spot after the Christmas break.
The Heineken Sunday League is now extremely popular and even some Premier League stalwarts are opting to turn out in it. Players like Rodrick Pearson, Garth Anderson and Floyd “Irons” McKenzie now enjoy Sunday morning games rather than the more demanding and less fun atmosphere of Sunday night Premier matches.
Other notable football achievements this year included Elite’s Mark Ebanks getting a chance to turn pro in Florida and Bodden Town goalkeeper Ramon Sealy getting selected for the first ever Caribbean Combine tryout next month in Antigua for a bid to play in Major League Soccer. Both 22-year-olds are dedicated to reaching professional status and have outstanding chances of doing so.
The annual Community Cup at West Bay’s Ed Bush stadium was another winner for youth football generally and helping financially players in academic expenses specifically. The West Bay Sports Foundation deserves props for supporting such worthy causes.
Youth football has come on significantly too, evidenced by a plethora of youngsters getting tryouts at professional academies in England, especially at Swindon Town. Even five-a-side football’s popularity at the Kings Sports Centre is on the increase, with Cayman Buzz Crusaders continuing to dominate, although the other teams are closing the gap.
Hundreds of players, coaches, officials and administrators came in August for an average of 10 days and in the process boosted the sports tourism dollars by millions at a lethargic time in the tourism industry.