Blake: US market is the future

A top local football figure believes the United States can enhance Cayman’s national sport. 

Cayman Islands Football Association vice president Bruce Blake says American soccer clubs are ready to accept more Caribbean players. He points to last week’s C3 Cayman International Youth Football Tournament, which featured the youth academy of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, being the start of future partnerships between Cayman and U.S.-based teams. 

“We have to thank Sunset Football Club for arranging the Dynamos to come,” Blake said. “It’s good to get clubs out of the U.S. Players focus on the European markets, but the U.S., to me, is always the better alternative. With the Dynamos bringing coaches and scouts, we hope players can eventually show their talents in the U.S. market. 

“Again, with the Dynamos coming, you have to credit Paul Macey of Sunset. Organizers were able to combine Houston’s and Swindon’s trips to make one big tournament. We’re hoping this really can catch on and help with other teams who hope to scout our players and sign them on their academies in the future.” 

Organized by Grasspiece Promotions, the tournament saw three match days at George Town’s T.E. McField Sports Centre, also known as the Annex. In addition to the Dynamos, the youth academy of English League 1 outfit Swindon Town also took part, along with a Cayman Select squad.  

Swindon was the tournament winner with four points, Cayman placed second with three points and Houston was third with one point. The competition also highlighted aspiring local talents as the Under-13 national program members and Under-14 players from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Program competed in exhibition matches. 

Local players based overseas were showcased during the tournament. Sebastian Martinez and Nathan Borde featured for Swindon, with Kray Foster making an appearance (though he did not play due to injury). Among the prodigies here on display were Leighton Thomas Jr. and Elijah Seymour for Cayman select and Joshua O’Garro and Corey Mellaneo for the youth football program. 

The competition comes after the staging of the recent CONCACAF Under-15 boys and Under-20 women’s championships in Cayman. Both competitions delivered six-figure boosts to the local economy. Blake says the wide-ranging benefit of football cannot be overlooked. 

“We’re gearing up for Under-15 qualifiers this year and next year again. The recent Under-20 matches were shown on Fox around the world and projected Cayman into parts of the world it has never been before. No private sector can pay for that. In the span of eight months, we held the Under-15 boys tournament, the CONCACAF summit attended by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the Under-20 womens tournament. That is tremendous for Cayman and no entity has brought such focus to Cayman. 

“Our country owes Jeffrey Webb [the Cayman football association president and FIFA vice president] a debt of gratitude for what he has done and is doing. 
FIFA’s support is not a given, we have to host well. We also have to compete well and kids have to dedicate themselves to training and to this sport. There is a lot of pressure on us. 

“We tend not to focus on the coaches, parents and kids, but they have a huge role to play. They’re as involved in the growth of football here as everyone else.” 

Government chipped in roughly $10,000 for the C3 tournament. For Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, these types of international competitions are a welcome boost for Cayman’s youth. 

“We’re looking forward to the Under-15 females in action and it’s an exciting time for the sport,” Bodden said. “Our young people can only benefit from this sort of competition.” 

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Sebastian Martinez led Swindon Town to the tournament title. – PHOTOS: MATTHEW YATES

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Leighton Thomas Jr. carved up the Houston Dynamo defense.

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Joshua O’Garro is a promising young player.