A 9,000-mile journey, three weeks in New Zealand and three intense matches in the Oceania Football Confederation President’s Cup have helped local Premier League champions Bodden Town FC.
Since the trip, Bodden Town compiled a 2-1-1 record in local league matches to keep within striking range of another premiership title. After a 4-1 defeat to Scholars International, Bodden Town heads into the Christmas break in fourth place – a point behind West Bay-based Scholars, who sit third with 18 points.
Bodden Town head coach Elbert McLean says morale within the club is high.
“The team bonding is stronger than ever,” McLean said. “The ball possession and the pace of the game are two areas which they have brought back home.”
The New Zealand tournament was one of two international competitions for the local side this year, as Bodden Town also took part in the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship qualifiers in Puerto Rico. McLean says playing abroad provides a big boost. “It is very important not just for the exposure but to show the players they can compete on that level.”
Bodden Town played in New Zealand at the request of the confederation, which also covered the team’s expenses for the inaugural tournament. The competition aimed to strengthen ties with Asia and the Americas.
Thanks to Bodden Town’s overseas results, the Cayman Islands Football Association feels local clubs have added opportunities to compete internationally. Association vice president Bruce Blake says it bodes well for Cayman football’s future.
“Bodden Town equipped themselves on and off the field in New Zealand,” Blake said. “The club gained valuable experience and served as ambassadors for the Cayman Islands with some brave performances. Such international exposure can only raise the team’s level of play and in turn raise the standard within the Cayman premier league. The association congratulates Bodden Town for a job well done.”
To Blake’s point, Bodden Town took part in community engagements while in New Zealand, visiting a school and participating in the UNICEF Let’s Play Fun Day initiative for children. On the field, the squad ended the week-long competition with a win, a loss and a draw. Bodden Town faced a club from the host country as well as teams from Singapore and Fiji. The opener was a draw to Singapore, and eventual champions Auckland City enjoyed a 9-0 thrashing before Bodden Town dominated the Fiji Under-20 side, 3-0, to place fifth.
It should be noted that Auckland City is currently in Morocco participating in the FIFA Club World Cup against the likes of Real Madrid and CONCACAF’s top club, Cruz Azul of Mexico.
Ricoh Brown, Theron Wood and Jonathan Ebanks were among the top players and scorers for Bodden Town. In addition, Ramon Sealy was rewarded with the Golden Gloves Award as the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper. For McLean, the Fiji victory was the most memorable moment of the tour.
“The victory was memorable, it was for our pride, pride of country, pride of Bodden Town. Several players benefitted from the trip – mostly Ramon Sealy, Santangelo Bush, Theron Wood and Ricoh Brown. It was good to see that with our small population, that we can produce a quality goalkeeper. It was a good feeling for the club and him [Sealy].”