Cayman nationals debut at invitational tournament

Home cooking could not bring the Cayman U-15 national football team a victory on Thursday. The Cayman team made its debut at the 2017 Cayman Airways Invitational U-15 Youth Football Cup and fell on the wrong side of a 4-0 score against IMG Academy in its first competitive game.

Bruce Sigsworth, coach of the U-15 team, said that his squad got a late jump on training this year, and that they are working hard in advance of CONCACAF qualifying tournaments later this summer.

“It’s a good challenge,” he said. “We don’t get challenges at this level or any real level of football. It’s excellent experience and exposure for them and the boys are ready to test themselves against the best.”

Sigsworth said his team has been training hard and that their game experience usually comes against older club teams here on Grand Cayman. The U-15 team faced a tough challenge in Florida’s IMG Academy Wednesday, and opposing coach Marcelo Carrera was thrilled for the opportunity.

“It’s a great tournament and it’s great exposure,” he said. “It’s a great way to touch different cultures. Here, they have all eyes on them, and the experience and the competition is really good. You’ve got Manchester City and Houston. Last year it was Seattle and the LA Galaxy. Every year, the competition is getting better and better. It’s a really good experience, not only the sports side, but the human side. It’s a FIFA tournament and you don’t know who’s watching. I always say, ‘You’ve got to be ready.’”

Carrera said his team had traveled to this tournament in each of the last few seasons, but his team was finally playing at the right age bracket instead of being young for the level of competition. IMG’s under 15 team rarely travels outside of Florida, but its players have the highest ambitions possible.

“At that age, your mind is to be pro,” said Carrera. “Everybody wants to be Cristiano Ronaldo or [Lionel] Messi, but they’re the only two in the world. It’s not easy. But you’ve got to dream high, the highest you can dream. The harder you can work, hopefully you get there. Somebody from these kids that we’ll see in this tournament can someday play at a high level and we enjoy watching them.”

Mr. Sigsworth said his team will not be deterred by a difficult path through the tournament, and he’s just happy to be able to match his players against quality opponents their age. The Cayman U-15 team is just soaking up the atmosphere and hoping to learn just how good they can be in the immediate future.

“We watched three games together [Tuesday],” said Mr. Sigsworth. “It’s beneficial and it’s good for them to see the level of competition to see if they’re ready and how they feel about it. We spoke to each of the boys to tell us how they’re feeling, and tell us what they feel they can do in this tournament.”