According to the region’s biggest figure, the Cayman Islands have a great future in women’s football.
Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football President Jeffrey Webb was in Cayman this month for the inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 Girls Championship. The local girls advanced to the quarterfinals, leaving the Cayman Islands Football Association president feeling like females will lead the charge on the pitch.
“I think for us, we continue to keep the girls together,” Webb said. “Next is the Under-17 World Cup qualifying in a year’s time so we’re trying to keep the team together. Work hard and try to give them as many games and exposure as possible. I think for women’s football, obviously, Cayman has a great generation and I think it’s for us now to make sure the kids develop to their full potential.
“The kids deserve government support, private sector support and definitely, all that the football association can support and do for them. It’s a great generation I think, you have to give them the opportunities to develop and continue to improve and get better.”
Cayman was eliminated by Honduras, 3-2, after a dominant display in the opening phases. The local girls went undefeated in group play, topping Group A at 3-0. The home team enjoyed landslide victories: 5-0 over British Virgin Islands, 4-1 over the Bahamas and 6-0 last Sunday over Curacao. Cayman, behind youngsters like Chyanai Tibbetts, was the only squad to gain the full nine points during the opening phases while scoring a competition-best 15 goals. Chelsea Green was the top scorer in group play with six goals. Honduras had a much tougher road, barely getting past Bermuda to the knockout stages.
Cayman’s coach, Ruben Flores, is a Mexican who was brought down from Canada to lead the squad. Flores says the key to the development of the girls is a consistent plan.
“I think everybody needs to sit down a little bit, think and put a plan together,” Flores said. “I don’t know if there is a plan but we need to sit down, put a plan and organized calendar, see what competitions are coming. This group is the future of the Cayman Islands, for the next 15 years. If we don’t pay attention to them, we’re going to go back to where we were before we did this competition. They need to pay a lot of attention to these kids. I’m so proud of them, I have no words to describe it. My heart stays in Cayman.”
Outside of the results on the pitch, the tournament was noteworthy for its impact outside the lines. Spectator turnout was strong across all the venues and the games energized the Sister Islands, as the Cayman Brac Sports Field hosted group games and the Cayman Brac economy enjoyed a six-figure boost with the influx of visitors. Those aspects did much to validate more than $2 million government allocated for renovations to the Brac field, the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, the T.E. McField Sports Centre (the Annex) and the Ed Bush Sports Centre.
Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden says those positives will stir government to continue its football funding.
“What we want to see from these Under-15 tournaments is continued development of the group to go on to become senior players to represent Cayman,” Bodden said. “You have the nucleus of our young group that basically came together not too long ago, with a good coach and the support team. It’s proven, they’ve done really well.
“They’re learning and this has been a wonderful time for Cayman football and that will continue. This team will go on to reap great dividends, I’m sure of that and we’ll make sure that the programs are in place, the level of coaching that is needed is in place to continue to develop. We have the structural facilities now, we just got to make sure we got the programs in place, as president Webb has always said, and we’re going to do that. With his help, we’re going to go far.”
While the tournament was overwhelmingly positive on these shores, many locals will be left with a bitter taste after the manner in which Cayman was eliminated. A big story line for the Honduras match was the subpar officiating which did little to stifle hard challenges and blatant stalling tactics by the visitors.
Webb, who also serves as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association vice president, says the key point to remember is that the girls have the potential for better results.
“The great thing about it is look, Cayman just lost to one of the top teams in CONCACAF. If it had been our men playing against Honduras, would the result have been the same? So I think from an opportunity, exposure and development standpoint, this team obviously has the potential to go much further than perhaps any other team we have in Cayman.
“When you’re passionate about the game, it doesn’t matter what level the game is. The game is full of passion, full of emotion and that’s why it’s still the most beautiful game in the world today.”