A group of young footballers from Cayman tested their skills against some of England’s best emerging talent in a tournament at the home of Premier League club West Ham United.
Total Soccer, a youth football development company in Cayman, sent a squad of 13 boys and one girl to the West Ham Under-14 cup in April.
They competed against academy sides from Premier League Clubs West Ham and Cardiff as well as teams from Northern Ireland and Sweden. The team also came up against Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town in friendly games during the tour.
The team found the competition stiff, losing every game, but took home a lesson in the quality of competition at the highest level of the youth game.
Peter Reijn, head coach at Total Soccer, said, “They found it very tough but it was inspiring for them. We expected to lose but it is worth it to get exposure to that level of competition.
“They won the fair play award and they will come back with a new idea of what the level is they have to get to.”
For Alexia Bromfield, the only girl on the team, the tour was a useful learning experience.
Bromfield, 13, is a promising winger who plays with the boys squad in club football and is part of the national girls squad.
She said, “We were against some Premier League teams. It was a much higher level than here in Cayman.
“I think my favourite part was the friendly games, because the score didn’t matter so much. I think we got better as the tour went on. From our first game to our last game we definitely improved, so if we played some of these teams again I am sure we could do better.”
She said the experience would help the squad improve and train harder.
Though the team may have lost against stronger opponents, there were some moments of glory.
Darren Hodgson scored the team’s only goal in a defeat against Charlton’s Academy, currently rated 4th in England.
“They have four national players for that age group in the team, so I was proud of myself,” said Hodgson.
He said the team, which plays as 345 FC in the local league, would train harder and improve from the experience.