Sebastian Martinez is nurturing the future of Cayman football with his skill and his ambition. Martinez, who recently signed a two-year deal with Leixoes S.C. in the second tier of Portuguese football, came home to Cayman over the weekend in order to shine a light on other talented players in his homeland.
The youngster, who left Cayman at age 12 to sign an apprenticeship contract with Swindon Town F.C. in England, went to the Annex field on Saturday to watch a few youth football teams run through their paces. Martinez is currently playing for the B team with Leixoes, and he hopes his journey will blaze a trail for others.
“It’s a great chance to be back, to celebrate my accomplishments and to enjoy some of the weather and food,” he said of his brief visit home. “I’m here to watch the kids play and present the trophies at the end. It was quite a long time ago for me, but still good memories of those days.”
Martinez brought two important ambassadors, Cesar Boaventura and Paulo Lopo, back to Cayman.
Boaventura heads the football agency GIC Career Management and Lopo is president of Leixoes S.C. They were both looking to further develop the skill level of Cayman’s young football players.
Portuguese teams are unable to bring in foreign players before the age of 16, which means that future Cayman professionals would do well to follow Martinez and sign apprenticeship contracts at a younger age. But once they hit 16, said Boaventura, there’s a path for them to succeed in Portugal.
“It’s possible,” he said. “The local government wants to develop the football in Cayman. We can put a coach here, and we can take the coaches from here to Portugal to work with Portuguese coaches. We can bring about five or six players to Portugal for training. Everything is possible. We see big talents here.” Lopo, whose club currently has players of 16 nationalities, believes that Martinez’s playing abroad can only improve the level of play domestically. He wants to find three or four players near the ability of Martinez, which could inspire better play at home for generations to come.
“The players here have big talent. But they don’t have enough tactical instruction in football,” he said, relying on Boaventura as an interpreter. “The important part is talent, and we’ve seen all over the world the talent to move players. Every time a player with talent leaves the country, it’s important for the football in the country to go to another level. In Portugal, we can say that about Paulo Futre, about Luis Figo and about Ronaldo. It was very important for these players to show the world the talent of Portugal.”
Martinez made another trip to visit local players on Sunday, and he is scheduled to be feted by the government at the George Town Yacht Club on Monday night. He’ll return to Portugal on Tuesday.
Boaventura estimates that it will take a year for Martinez to break into the top team for Leixoes. This year will be spent preparing physically and technically for top-level football, but Boaventura said that Martinez could move quickly through the European ladder. Boaventura and his business partner, agent and former footballer Fitzroy Simpson, want to see Martinez at a big club like S.L. Benfica soon.
“I trust in one year, Sebastian will be on the first team,” Boaventura said of Leixoes. “But my project for Sebastian now is preparing him to go to a team like Benfica. Three years, maximum. Because the player is consistent. All the time, he wants football. He has a big chance, because he has big talent.”