Elite, which won the FA Cup last season, trains at Ed Bush alongside Scholars International, the dominant power in the Cayman Islands Premier League. Twice a week, Elite takes one half of the field and Scholars takes the other half, and they know that at some point they’ll meet when it counts.
That includes Sunday’s Cayman Islands Football Association Charity Shield match, where the two teams were slated to kick off in the Association’s season-opening event. Results were not available by press time.
Greg Ebanks, the coach of Elite, has won two Premier League championships since the team’s formation in 2006. Elite had previously been part of the Scholars International family, but then it split off with several youth players who hadn’t been able to make their way into the Premier League lineup.
“They weren’t catering to the youth,” said Ebanks of the decision to split from Scholars. “And in 13 years, a lot of the players that played in that time are older now. Some of them have fallen off. Youth is a key thing. If you looked at the national team [last month], a good core of them was youth.”
Ebanks said that his two sons are some of Elite’s longest-serving players, and he said that he doesn’t have to underline the matchup with Scholars to get his players ready for the season.
“I place a lot of emphasis on playing good, entertaining football with possession,” he said. “Players always change clubs. Maybe I lose a few, but I gain some. Scholars may lose a couple, but they gain some players as well. Beating them and beating us means something prestigious.”
Elite’s main scoring threat is Christopher Reeves, who notched 21 goals last season. Reeves, 22, has been on island since 2010 and playing with Elite since the 2011 campaign. His teammates are more like family, he said, and he’s stayed in shape by playing with Cayman’s national team.
“I’m excited for the new season. We’re ready to win some more championships,” said Reeves. “I’ve been training hard. I haven’t stopped since the season finished. I’m getting ready to play some football.”
Reeves said that Elite’s midfield is the strength of the team, and he said his job is to keep running and to keep fighting against defenders until he wears them down and gets a ball through the back line.
It’s hard to keep fresh, said Reeves, because he works a full-time job when he’s not playing football. But that’s the price he has to pay, and more to the point, it’s a price being paid by many of his opponents.
“Sometimes it’s hard because I have to work hard,” he said of finding the energy to go out and practice his game. “I go home around 5 or 6 o’clock and get one hour of rest and then I have to go to training. After training, I go to sleep and back to work. It’s not easy but it’s what I love. I keep on doing it.”