Martinez edges closer to pros

Teenage footballer Sebastian Martinez has taken another step toward his dream of becoming a professional in England after signing a two-year apprenticeship contract with Swindon Town.

The 16-year-old Caymanian’s contract with the League One club commences in July.

Martinez has been with the club’s celebrated youth academy since 2011 when he became the first Caymanian youth to sign a development contract as a trainee with a professional club.

There were initial concerns that being small and unused to the physical nature of the English game might be an obstacle, but he has grown both in stature and confidence in his four years there.

Martinez is guided by Grasspiece Promotions, comprising his father Barry Martinez, Bruce Sigsworth, Neil Murray, Chris Hew and Nicholas Borde.

They formed to try and improve youth football in Cayman and strengthen relationships with the youth academy at Swindon Town and football agent Fitzroy Simpson.

Grasspiece hosted camps with Swindon coach Jamie Pitman last summer and has sent youngsters to Swindon’s youth academy for training experience – the latest was Kareem Foster last October – and hosted the Cayman International Youth tournaments.

Simpson, a former player with Swindon Town, Manchester City and Portsmouth and former Jamaica international, starred in the 1998 World Cup finals for the Reggae Boyz.

Martinez’s dream of becoming a pro began with Simpson’s guidance and he has blossomed at the academy.

Simpson said, “Seb’s progress is not unexpected. I have always had faith in his abilities and have high expectations for him.

“I have always said that Seb was a diamond in the rough and with him coming to the United Kingdom at a young age, his abilities have been honed and this greatly increases the probability of him progressing to the next level.”

Martinez is a tricky midfielder with brilliant dribbling skills. He is preparing for his GCSE mock exams and finals and has already passed three GCSEs.

Placement in the apprenticeship scheme is offered, along with an educational component, as it requires the player to attend college twice a week to pursue either A levels or a qualification with the Business and Technology Education Council or gain National Vocational qualifications.

He trains full-time and has the opportunity to progress from Swindon Town Academy’s youth teams to the club’s reserves.

The former Cayman Prep student said, “I’m very excited to be awarded this apprenticeship with Swindon Town. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at the club and am very grateful to Fitzroy, the Simpson family, coach Newton and all the coaches at Swindon for believing in me.

“I have the opportunity to go further with my football and academics and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.” Minister of Sport Osbourne Bodden said, “It gives me great pleasure to learn of Sebastian’s apprenticeship offer by Swindon Town.

“This is a huge moment for the young man and for these small islands and on behalf of the government, I extend hearty and sincere congratulations to Sebastian, his parents, coaches and all those who have had a hand in helping him reaching this milestone.”

Bodden said he thinks Martinez is “a great role model and has shown what is possible with hard work and commitment and the right attitude.”

Bodden also said it has been the government’s privilege to have supported Martinez and it proves that when the government recognizes talent and puts resources behind it, anything is possible.

“We wish him continued success as he strives to fulfill his dream and establish the Cayman Islands as a name in British football.”

Although optimistic, Martinez is realistic and realizes that making it this far is an amazing feat for any youngster, more so one from the Caribbean, and that there is no guarantee that he will make it to the next level. He remains extremely focused.

Jeffrey Webb, CONCACAF president and Cayman Islands Football Association president, has followed Martinez’s progress.

Webb said, “On behalf of CIFA and CONCACAF, I extend my sincerest congratulations to Sebastian.

“I wish you all the best in this new venture, where you will have an opportunity to learn about the technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of our beautiful sport.

“I have every confidence that you will continue to make the Cayman football family proud by setting an example for other young players to follow.”