The new Cayman Islands Football Association season kicks off in earnest on Sunday and after the way the Charity Shield game ended last weekend, good behavior and exemplary sportsmanship should be at the forefront of all concerned.
Cayman Athletic’s youngsters beat Scholars International 3-1 after extra time at the TE McField Annex on Sunday but a fixture which historically is always fiercely fought, degenerated into a bad-tempered game with five red cards issued by referee Swanson Owen.
Athletic’s Jamaal Seymour was red carded at the end and the other sending offs were for Scholars players; captain Tom Elliot, Ordelmo Powell, Javier Medina and Odine Plinton.
Despite his sending off, Seymour played well, scoring twice. The other Athletic goal came from Christopher Myles. Rolly Bodden scored for Scholars.
There were plenty of niggling incidents throughout the game, possibly because of all the pride at stake.
Scholars won the Premier League title comfortably last term after overhauling early leaders Elite Sports Club and Athletic and maybe the Athletic players were extra pumped up to prove a point.
Bruce Blake, acting CIFA president, went onto the field at the end to try and calm down the players, coaches and supporters.
Blake was moved to issue a statement on Wednesday that read: “As we get ready to start the 2015/16 domestic league season, I would like to stress the importance and need for good sportsmanship on and off the field of play.
“We are in support of teams being competitive on the field and playing to win. However, this should not be done at the expense of good sportsmanship and common decency.”
Blake added that he wants fans to attend attractive football matches “and not be subjected to players, coaches, officials behaving badly.”
He also called for more “professionalism, respect and integrity.”
Blake finished by stating: “Disrespect and unsportsmanlike behavior will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly.”
All this drama did not affect Jessus Ebanks, who joined Scholars from Elite this season to bolster their midfield and striking options.
The 27-year-old Caymanian has been playing since he was 8 so has seen it all on the field.
“I enjoy competing but I just love the game, the ups and downs help you to grow on and off the field,” Ebanks said.
He was “really disappointed with the result” against Athletic but added: “I have to give them credit, they played the way they normally do (long balls) which is good for them as it obviously works when it comes off.
“However, we didn’t do ourselves any favors by adapting to their style instead of playing our own system so besides a few moments of bad play I’d liked to have matched them playing our brand of football.”
Ebanks was not entirely happy with his form because “I wasn’t found in the pockets as much as I’d hoped for due to us adopting their style of long ball tactics.”
His ambition this season is to help Scholars through his legendary work ethic, plenty of goals and assists.
“My targets for the team is to win the remaining trophies and get as far as we can in the Champions League,” he said.
Badminton is not widely played in Cayman but Ebanks enjoys its genteel setting when he gets the chance. He has been a track and field sprinter and used to play basketball avidly.
He works as an assistant underwriter in insurance and although a professional career in football may have passed him by, his remaining ambitions in the sport are to win the Premier League this term, as well as advance in the World Cup qualifiers with the national team, if he is selected.
He envisages Scholars doing well in the Champions League “if we stay healthy and hit top form.”
Ebanks enjoys being a part of the national squad and, although the schedule has not been released, he wants to see the program continue in light of recent success.
Besides himself, Ebanks sees the key Scholars players to bring the club success being Rolly Bodden, Courtney Duval, Damalay Howelle, Tom Elliot, Paul Brown, Roderick Pearson and Jermaine “Whacky” Brown.
Scholars open their Premier League account against Roma United this Sunday at the Annex, kick off 5 p.m. The later game at that venue is Cayman Athletic against George Town.
At the North Side field, Elite face Academy at 5 p.m. and Bodden Town are at home against Sunset at 7 p.m.