A young Caymanian football team is preparing for the trip of their lives.
Total Soccer, a professional youth football development company in Cayman, is getting ready to take its Under 14 team to England to compete in a tournament against the best England has to offer.
The Cayman delegation will take part in the West Ham U-14 Cup, an April tournament that could pit them against academy teams from Premier League clubs like West Ham United, Everton, Leicester City and Wolverhampton.
With an assist from Blue Water Events, the Cayman team will stage a fundraiser called Target Glow Golf on March 22 at Calico Jack’s in order to pay for the trip.
“They’re going to experience something that I think they’ll never experience again,” said Total Football coach Peter Reijn. “Are they committed? Do they have parents that support it? Then it doesn’t matter whether they have the money or can afford it. We’ll just be able to do it.”
The players are all between the ages of 8 and 15, and Reijn said they are the best of the players that Total Soccer trains in that age group. These players have all had quite a bit of training at this point, Reijn said, and he’s confident that they will be able to compete on an international stage.
Total Soccer won recognition for its program by faring well in a Houston, Texas, tournament with its U-11 team last year, and now it hopes to stand out against the best youth clubs the world has to offer.
The West Ham U-14 Cup starts on April 20, but Total Soccer plans on arriving a little bit early.
“We actually go on the 16th of April,” Reijn said. “They offer two friendly games during the week to prepare for the tournament. You don’t want to travel for nothing. I’m talking to Manchester United at the moment, because I know the coach, but it depends if they’re available to do it.”
The team, which consists of 12 boys and one girl, is mostly self-funded, but the Target Glow Golf event is designed to raise money for players that may not be able to afford the trip on their own.
Reijn said that the team plans a similar trip to the Netherlands for another youth team in late May or in early June, and the excess funds from the Calico Jack’s fundraiser will be used to partially fund that journey.
“For the trip to Holland, we have a couple of kids that need funds,” Reijn said last week. “Because it’s only a few – like four or five out of a group of 24 kids – we’ll reach out to our parents and see if anybody can donate a bit. We should be able to cover it. There will be raffles and prizes.”
The Target Glow Golf event, sponsored by Blue Water Events, will take place from 6-10 p.m. on March 22 at Calico Jack’s, and the entry fee will be $425 for a team of five players.
Reijn said Total Soccer is also enrolling its players in an American domestic league in Orlando, Forida, to foster better competition, but in many ways, this trip to England will be invaluable.
“Their eyes will be opened,” he said of competing against top youth teams. “There’s so many kids in England and Holland that would like that opportunity. There are two or three kids on our team that aren’t even looking at the clubs; they’re looking at traveling to England. They think it’s amazing.”
“The thing I am most looking forward to about the England trip is the chance of being selected by a pro club,” said Jahmar Campbell, one of the team’s players. “In addition, I would also like to see players who are better than me so I can see where I need to most improve upon.”