September 17, 2021

Cayman Islands kids are friendly, neat and can play, mon!

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web1_kantowskicolumn-feb16_021514DB_001_0By Ron Kantowski From Las Vegas Review-Journal

It was about 10 years ago when some local soccer enthusiasts got this idea to put on a grand kids’ soccer tournament, figuring that if they did it right, kids from far and wide might come here to play.

And that explains why today more than 450 youth teams from even farther and wider than ever imagined — places visited by Spanish navigators in the 15th century, for instance — chase the soccer ball in the Mayor’s Cup International Showcase.

It also explains why Dr. Verley Campbell of Grand Cayman Island, by way of Montego Bay in Jamaica, said if I ever make it out to the Caymans, he’ll set me up at Stingray City, mon.

Now all I gotta do is learn how to swim.

Stingray City sounds like a used car lot. It’s actually a bunch of sandbars just off the coast of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba, where scuba divers can pet the kind of stingrays that cruise seabeds looking for plankton. Some of these stingrays also have low, low miles.

Dr. Verley Campbell, 54, is the team physician for the Cayman Select under-14 boys’ soccer team, which played Cook’s Inlet Soccer Club of Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday morning at Ed Fountain Park.

So you had a team from the Cayman Islands and you had a team from Alaska, and it was 62 degrees at kickoff. One team was too cold and some of its players wore gloves; the other was too hot and wore as little as possible.

But I learned there is, indeed, a winter season in the Caymans, after the hurricanes blow through. Dr. Campbell said it got down to around 75 degrees this year. Brrrr!

Cayman Select won 3-1, scoring a beautiful go-ahead goal from a corner kick by a kid named Kareem Foster and a header by a kid named Cody Ebanks. Way to go, mon!

Foster then put the game out of reach by drawing the Anchorage keeper away from his net and sliding the ball past him with his left foot. He ran off the field with his fists in the air and a smile you could see from Las Vegas to George Town, the capital and largest city in the Caymans with a population of around 28,000.

So this was pretty good soccer considering the players were skinny teenagers. That’s why they come to Las Vegas, I am told. For the soccer.

I, on the other hand, go to the Mayor’s Cup to meet people, people from farther and wider who speak with cool accents, mon; people I probably and unfortunately never will meet again, even if they can arrange a discount at Stingray City.

A couple of years ago at the Mayor’s Cup, I met a delegation that had traveled more than 6,000 miles to follow the boys under-19 team from Krakow, Poland. I did not meet any of my ancestors. I did, however, meet a man named George Kileak, who had fought in the uprising when Hitler’s tanks rumbled into Warsaw.

You usually are not going to get that at a Columbus Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City game.

So this time I met Dr. Verley Campbell, an emergency room physician at George Town Hospital on Grand Cayman, which is where they took the former ballplayer and manager Jim Fregosi when he had his stroke last week. Dr. Campbell said he attends continuing medical education conferences at Harvard, and that the rates at Luxor are much cheaper than hotel rooms in Boston.

I bro-hugged the Cayman Select coaches, Ernie Seymour and his son, Antwan, who also plays for the Cayman Select men’s side. “We’re famous for being friendly,” they said. They were talking about the Cayman people in general.

Ernie Seymour did raise his voice when the other players followed little Kareem Foster off the pitch and celebrated when the game still was going on.

He also admonished a player named Tito for “just running around midfield and not doing anything, mon.”

Neither Dr. Campbell, nor the Seymours, nor the other members of the Cayman group with whom I spoke — and I must have spoken to them all — said they could get me a secret bank account.

Antwan Seymour said he’s trying to put together a tournament at home, because it costs a lot of money to travel to the states, and that he’s willing to do a tournament with as few as four teams. So any local sides who are interested in seeing the Cayman Islands, petting the stingrays and/or investing in a hedge fund should contact him at [email protected]

He promises warm breezes and lucent blue-green water and pristine beaches and tons of hospitality, mon. And probably some excellent reggae music at night.

And though I’ve never been to the Cayman Islands, I know those beaches are pristine, because before the Cayman Select kids left Field No. 3 at Fountain Park, they picked up their empty water bottles and other trash without having to be told.

As I was leaving, one of the parents handed me a little red high-top sneaker key chain that said Cayman Islands on the heel, just in case I don’t make it to Stingray City anytime soon.

I was putting the keys to my truck on the silver ring when I noticed that somebody had left a slick of Del Scorcho sauce and about a dozen empty taco wrappers, along with the bag, in the parking space next to mine.

PHOTO: Cayman Select 14 and under coach Ernie Seymour calls to his team during a match against the Cook Inlet Soccer Club from Anchorage, Alaska at Ed Fountain Park on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (David Becker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

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