When the men’s national team repeatedly fell short in tournaments, the Cayman Islands Football Association decided to focus on raising the overall standard of youth football instead.
CIFA took a long-term view that this policy would eventually produce a stronger national side.
That decision a few years ago is already paying off, as witnessed by the success of the four players who went to the Digicel Kickstart Academy in Jamaica last week.
Kameron D’Hue, a 16-year-old center-back with Future Sports Club, won the Most Valuable Player award in Kingston from Chelsea Football Club coaches and the others impressed too.
There were 42 players in total from 13 Caribbean countries.
Zachary Scott’s brilliance for Academy Sports Club was spotted by Chelsea six months ago, leading to an invitation for him to join the Chelsea Foundation School in Guildford, Surrey.
He started in September, blending his football development with academics.
The 16-year-old center midfielder has settled in his new surroundings quickly.
“It’s really been great so far, I’ve always wanted to play in England,” Scott said. “This is my link to try to get into top pro football.
“It’s nice to go to the Chelsea training complex in Cobham and see the stars like Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba and Diego Costa.”
Dealing with the changeable English climate and notoriously bland cuisine is okay for Scott, who said traveling to the U.K. often with Virgil Seymour, his club coach at Academy Sports Club, prepared him well for life in England.
Scott was spotted by Chelsea when the youth coaches had their Digicel Kickstart sessions at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in April.
A sinus infection hampered him playing exceptionally well in Jamaica but he still felt he made a lasting impression and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
Scott thought that the players from Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago were the most rounded.
He is proud that Cayman is producing talented individuals and feels now it needs to develop good national teams.
A Manchester United supporter, Scott hopes new manager Luis van Gaal can improve the club’s fortunes.
“I think van Gaal is going to change it up because he has a good philosophy. Hopefully, he will turn out good.”
Maybe Scott could be playing at Old Trafford in a few years time.
He is a big advocate of the Digicel Kickstart program and encourages all aspiring footballers to get involved.
Jiffon Robinson, 14, plays in midfield for Academy Sports Club having started off with Scholars International in West Bay.
“My experience in Jamaica was great,” he said. “I got to be taught by different coaches who raised my tempo a bit.”
Robinson said that what he learned most was to gel with players from a diverse background. “It wasn’t easy but once you get it, it’s great,” he said, adding that he was taught the importance of communication on the field.
“My tactical awareness has boosted up. Every time I run now, I look over my shoulder. I also call names and raise my voice more.”
Robinson praises coach Seymour for bringing out the best in him.
“When I first joined Academy, I wasn’t really that good but coach Virgil saw the potential in me and built me up with my speed, passing and he showed me how to control the tempo.”
Robinson supports Chelsea and Barcelona and his favorite player is Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s midfield maestro.
Tevin Crawford is in his tenth year at Bodden Town Football Club.
Like the others, he had a fabulous time in Jamaica. The biggest pointer the 16-year-old center-back learnt from the Chelsea coaches was to build up a move from the back.
Crawford aspires to emulate David Luiz, the Brazilian international at Paris St. Germain.
“I know it may sound funny, but I also look up to Kameron D’Hue because he plays very good and he’s a leader and has a very good eye for spotting if someone on the team is not playing well,” he said. “He always brings us up.”
Crawford enjoyed interacting with the others in Kingston, even the Panamanian Spanish-speakers where sign language was the easiest communication.
He is a Manchester United supporter who also has “a deep respect for Chelsea.”
Crawford added, “This camp has made my respect for Chelsea even deeper because they gave me that opportunity.”
A pragmatist, rather than setting his sights solely on playing at elite level in Europe, Crawford is aiming for Major League Soccer “because it is easier to get into.”
A computer science student at UCCI, if football dreams are not realized, he hopes to make it as an IT specialist.