Underdogs rise to the occasion in President’s Cup finals

Latinos men, Scholars women take home hardware.

Neither Latinos men’s football team nor Scholars women’s squad were favoured to win on the final weekend of the Cayman Islands Football Association season. Then they both proved that nothing is predictable in a domestic football season unlike any other.

Latinos beat Scholars 2-1 to claim the CIFA President’s Cup men’s title and Scholars topped Elite 2-1 on the women’s side Sunday at the Annex to close out a season suspended nearly five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t really tell you the emotions right now,” said Latinos Chairman Saulo Castro Martinez after the match.

It marks the first time Latinos Football Club has won the President’s Cup trophy. The last time the team earned hardware was four years ago when it won the CIFA Foster’s First Division.

Latinos finished the CIFA Premier League fifth in the standings while Scholars finished runners-up, only trailing league champion Bodden Town.

“Latinos deserve this cup.”

Sunday’s game started with Latinos attacking early on. It appeared Latinos scored first eight minutes into the match but the goal was waved off due to an offside call.

Latinos’ captain Jarol Smith scored in the 16th minute to give his side the 1-0 lead they would carry into halftime.

Jose Melendez scored the would-be winner for Latinos in the 50th minute, to which the rowdy Spanish crowd erupted, banging drums and singing in support of their team.

Scholars’ Jonah Ebanks cut the deficit in half in added time but Latinos walked off with the victory.

“Latinos deserve this cup,” said Castro. “Scholars are a professional team but we train hard this week. My players came for it and we took the cup. So we are really glad about what happened tonight.”

Scholars’ head coach Collin Rowe said after the match, while he is disappointed in the results, he understands even a top team can fail.

“We won a lot of silverware over the years and this is another hurdle that we need to jump,” said Rowe. “No one likes to lose, but it’s been a good season for us, we just need to go back to the drawing boards and next time we’ll fight again.”

In the women’s President’s Cup finals, 2019/2020 league winners Elite came into the match undefeated for the season. Scholars International, however, stopped that streak from going any further beating Elite 2-1 to claim the trophy.

Ten minutes into the game, Elite’s Tamoy Phillips scored to take the early lead heading into the second half. Scholars’ Tatiana Ramoon brought the game level in the 64th minute after a spot-on header, but Scholars’ Kessie McCoy converted late in the match to give Scholars the win.

“I think it’s just the heart of the girls honestly,” said Scholars’ captain Kaela Ebanks after the win. “It felt so good, really good… nothing can compare to being out here.”

Despite the big win, Ebanks already has her sights set on the next season that promises more competition with the addition of more women’s teams.

“It’s super exciting to see that we have more teams joining,” Ebanks added. “…Encouraging the youth and getting them to come out and train, that would be a plus.”

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