Funding cuts to Cayman’s national football program have not spared the game’s youngest players.
The junior Under-15 national team has taken on fundraising efforts to allow them to continue competing internationally and replace limited support once provided by the Cayman Islands government.
That funding came before scandal hit the Cayman Islands Football Association in 2015, prompting government to withdraw its annual $130,000 budget. A small part of that had been directed to the U-15 team.
The team now hopes to independently raise $50,000 to secure its spot in the CONCACAF Boys’ U-15 Championship in August at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The competition will include the top 40 teams from the region.
To date, the Cayman team has raised $1,500 toward its goals.
Coach Bruce Sigsworth said he has reached out to government for direct funding for the U-15 program but has not received a response.
The team now depends on family and community support.
“The reason is that we haven’t received a lot of support due to the situation with FIFA. We’ve relied a lot on and are thankful for the parents who have supported us so far. That’s why we’ve now reached out to the community,” he said during an evening practice in West Bay.
Through donations, the team hopes to participate in several training opportunities leading up to the August tournament. In June, players plan to attend the Celtic Soccer Club ID Camp in Florida. The team has also scheduled several local weekend trainings with visiting coaches.
Mr. Sigsworth said these camps provide invaluable development opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach for the team.
“It’s very important for them to go to these types of events because they don’t get the exposure to different levels or styles of football locally. The season was over in five or six games,” he said.
“They need this kind of trip and these different events to gain exposure. It’s also a great social event for them as well, building and combining as a team and learning some life lessons from the sport.”
Meanwhile, he said players have been building their fitness and game knowledge through practices twice a week. The prospect of playing in the CONCACAF tournament has been a driving motivator for the team.
Striker David Pitcairn said he has his sights set on the August competition.
“I have been playing football since I was 3 years old and I am extremely proud of representing the Cayman Islands in the game that I love and am passionate about,” he said in a press release.
The U-15 team has been training for four years. The players from this division feed into the U-17 national team with the goal of competing in the World Cup qualifying games.
Those interested in making a donation should visit www.cayman.football.
Additional reporting done by Alvaro Serey.