Cayman expands local youth football leagues

Members of the Cayman Youth Football League board, from left, Mark Whiteside, Richard Barton, Richard Hew, Chloe Tathum, John Pitcairn and Neil Murray. - PHOTO: Spencer Fordin

Cayman’s youth football ladder is about to become more complete.

The Cayman Youth Football Leagues were announced on Wednesday, expanding the footprint of available youth leagues and expecting to serve about 1,200 children annually.

The CYFL is a non-profit organisation that will assume responsibility for the existing CUC Primary Football League and the Dart Under 13 High School League. CUC and Dart are the major sponsors of the new organisation, which will arrange games for boys and girls all over Grand Cayman.

Richard Hew, the chief executive officer of CUC and the President of the CYFL, said Wednesday that he considers it an important priority to make sure Cayman’s youth have opportunities on the pitch.

“The benefits of sports with education from a social perspective – getting kids involved in a healthy lifestyle and having school pride – is very important,” said Hew. “We are all footballers. I’m a former national team player. … I have lifelong friends through football. I’ve lived the positive aspects of football. We have a love for the sport and we see the positive difference it can make for young people.”

The newest league will be one designed for high school boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16.

Hew will be joined on CYFL’s board of directors by general secretary Mark Whiteside, treasurer John Pitcairn, as well as Richard Barton and Neil Murray. The group also said Wednesday that it plans on adding Chloe Tathum of Dart Enterprises to the board as soon as the paperwork can be completed.

The CUC Primary Football League is about to begin its 15th season, and the Dart Under 13 High School League is entering its third campaign. The new organisational structure will add further opportunities for girls, which Tathum said would have been a great benefit during her playing career.

“There’s been a few girls – like myself and a few others – who had to participate in the boys’ league because it was just the primary school and nothing really happening until senior women’s league,” said Tathum, a former women’s national team member for Cayman. “I did partake in the U‑15 and U‑17 boys, so now to be part of an organization that is trying to fix that gap, I’m glad to a part.”

Hew said Wednesday that it was important to bring more resources to bear for youth football in terms of coaching and fields, and he was pleased to provide expanded opportunities for female players.

“The girls’ game is growing rapidly, and obviously at the national level they’re doing very well,” he said. “The school leagues, the numbers still aren’t as many as the boys. In the future, it will be. We have all age levels for the girls other than U7. What we see with girls is that when you don’t have the numbers, you can widen the age of the competition a bit more because you don’t have a big physical difference.”

The league will be contested between September and December and will be played at several area schools. The girls’ Primary Football League will kick off Saturday with an opening rally at the Annex Field, and the boys’ Primary Football League campaign will stage its opening really on 21 Sept.

Cayman’s entire football community will be aided by expanded leagues, said Barton, and so will society at large in that the disparate neighbourhoods of Cayman will be drawn together via sports.

“When I went to John Gray, we didn’t have Clifton Hunter and other schools. People become isolated in their community,” said Barton. “It’s another way of expanding beyond your high school class and bridging the gap between communities so that people who live in Bodden Town can interact and make independent friendships and associations with people that live in George Town.”

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