Cayman hosts international girls U-14 football tournament

The stands will be packed with parents and friends, and the future of Cayman’s women’s football team will be on display in a challenge against multiple regional rivals.

Cayman’s under-14 girls team will play host to a group in the Caribbean Football Union’s Under-14 Challenge Series this week, starting Monday with a game against Barbados. Cayman will also have homefield advantage for matches against Curacao Wednesday and St. Lucia on Friday.

The games will be held at Truman Bodden Sports Complex, and all of Cayman’s games will be at 7pm. On all three days, there will also be an earlier game starting at 5pm.

“The girls are very motivated,” said Alexander Gonzalez, the coach of Cayman’s girls Under-14 team. “Several of them have experience in the previous sub-15 tournament, and we have faith that this year we can win the qualifying tournament here in the Cayman Islands.”

Gonzalez has been putting the team through its paces for several months, but the training has ramped up in recent weeks. The girls practised every day last week, and they are looking forward to having the opportunity to play on a big stage with a capacity crowd cheering them on to play their best.

“We’re all excited,” said forward Stoyanna Stewart. “We talk about it a lot, coming out here and supporting our country. Most of us haven’t had a big tournament like this. We had one, but it was away so not much of our supporters were there. We went to Turks and Caicos and won all of our games there.”

“It will mean a lot,” added midfielder Alexia Bromfield of playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. “It will be really good if we have all the support. We really need it.”

School is still out for the players, but many of them have other soccer commitments in terms of playing for club teams in addition to the national team. Bromfield played an age group up and made a trip with an older national team last year, and she also keeps busy by playing on a boys’ club team.

“Physically, they’re a lot stronger so you really have to work hard to keep up,” said Bromfield. “It’s different but I think we should make that a thing instead of just playing on girls’ teams.”

Ashlyn Evans said that she’s looking forward to playing this week because her sister is home from Ireland and has never seen her play before. That is inspiring for the forward, who is playing in her first tournament for her country, especially because of how hard she’s worked in training.

“It really means a lot because last year I didn’t cut it. I was really young,” said Evans. “I’m 13 now and this is the Under-14s. It means a lot to me to be playing for my country.”

There are five groups and 22 teams involved in the Challenge Series. The other groups will be staged in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Cayman ran through conditioning drills Thursday evening at Truman Bodden and worked on dribbling and passing, as well as their setup for set pieces on both offence and defence. Now, the stage is set for them to put it all on the line and compete against players from other islands.

“We’ve all improved in the last two months,” said Stewart.

“I think we’re ready for this tournament and I think we’re going to win. We have a good team.”