Senior members of the Cayman Islands national football team are concerned that the behaviour of the officials who run the sport is jeopardising their chances of success on the pitch.
Multiple players contacted the Cayman Compass with serious concerns, in particular about the actions of Cayman Islands Football Association president Alfredo Whittaker.
CIFA was fined $55,500 and Whittaker was banned from all national team football activities for six months, after an incident in which he was found guilty by FIFA of “misconduct and inappropriate behaviour towards a match official,” as well as for not providing PCR COVID-19 test results at last month’s World Cup qualifier against Canada in Florida.
Despite the ban, several players reported that Whittaker remained in the US with them for the two matches after the sanction was announced. They fear the team and the association will suffer consequences for his actions.
“It only takes one instance of breaking the punishment that was handed down by FIFA, for them to come down like a ton of bricks on Cayman. We could potentially face an international ban for years to come as a result. That doesn’t affect anyone else more than the players who work so hard to represent their flag on the football pitch,” one player said in response to Compass questions.
Several other players confirmed Whittaker’s presence in Florida, where Cayman drew with Bermuda in the final match of their World Cup qualifying campaign on 8 June.
Players also spoke out about what they see as a lack of support from management for the coaches and players. Their comments paint a picture of dysfunction, with officials interfering with team selection, arguing with the coaches and failing to provide basics such as water for training sessions.
Whittaker hits back at players’ accusations
Responding to criticism from members of Cayman’s national men’s football team, CIFA president Alfredo Whittaker stressed that the men’s game was not CIFA’s sole priority and that other programmes were performing successfully:
“Later this year the [girls’] U15 [and] U20, and senior women’s national teams will be participating in their World Cup qualifiers. The girls’ U15 national team most likely will be participating in the CFU [Caribbean Football Union] development tournament. The boys’ U15 and U20 also have World Cup qualifiers this year.”
On concerns about how funds were being allocated:
“CIFA had invested not only in local tournaments – especially in our league – but also [assisted] the clubs, not only financially, but also with equipment such as footballs, uniforms, football shoes and payment of airfare for all teams that travel to Cayman Brac.”
On the accusations related to payments to players:
“This is the only national team that… are rewarded with CI$30 for training, $100 daily allowance [per international trip] and staying in 4- or 5-star hotels. For the first time, the Cayman Islands Football Association have full-time coaches for all national team ages and are participating constantly in all FIFA and CONCACAF tournaments, but some players in a very selfish way only think about [themselves] and not about the other national teams.”
On the criticism of undue influence on team selection:
“Personally, I will never get involved in no coaches decision [with their] lineup.”
However, while Whittaker confirmed his presence in Florida, he told the Compass that he had no involvement in the national team and did not breach FIFA’s ban. (Read his full response in the accompanying story.)
“Yes, I was at the hotel, but I never had no interaction with the team. I travelled on a separate day and also left the hotel before the team’s second game,” Whittaker told the Compass.
In total, 11 different players spoke to the Compass highlighting similar concerns. Though they support the coaching staff and want to represent Cayman, they feel like they are being let down by the administration.
“CIFA can only do so much, as our current president keeps interfering in the roles of the executive committee, managers and coaches not allowing them to do their jobs. It’s like he wants full control over everything and everyone,” another player said.
Some said they had not been paid promised stipends, after taking time off from work to represent their country. Others said offers of gym memberships and food after late-night practices did not materialise, leaving them ill-prepared to compete. The players believe they are being left to take the blame for poor results.
“I feel like we are given a hammer and told to go build a house with just the hammer,” one footballer said.
While most players shared negative comments about the association and its president, some praised the executives for their investment in young people.
“They help feed the grassroots programmes, help kids get involved and I’ve seen them go above and beyond with pushing girls in the sport, so I’m happy about that,” another team member said.
However, other players were more critical of the association, saying that funding isn’t being allocated properly.
“I feel like CIFA has more to offer to the leagues and the national teams but they holding back and using money as an excuse,” one complaint stated.
The CIFA executive committee is set to meet on 14 June to discuss the criticism from the national players.