By Christopher Tobutt
Every summer, hundreds of kids from all over Cayman come to FC International’s Football Summer Camp. Volunteers – some of them some of Cayman’s former soccer stars - join forces to make sure Cayman’s Kids are each made to feel extra-special too, as they learn football skills and good sportsperson-ship and teamwork with their friends. Each week-long camp is completely free and is held in different districts so that nobody gets left out. The George Town Camp was held during the second week of August at the Annex Playing Field next to George Town Primary School.
There, more than 80 kids between 4 and 17 were learning to dribble, tackle and shoot. Many of the older kids grew up with the program, and are consequently are now skilled and confident enough to coach the little ones. It’s really like a great big family with the older brothers and sisters showing the little guys what to do. Like 17 year-old Charles Ebanks, who had just finished showing the little ones how to shoot for that World-Cup goal. “I was six or seven when I first came here and it really gave me more confidence with my soccer training and the skills I learned,” he said.
It was 16-year-old Vashti Ebanks’ first time at the FC international camp. “Today I have been learning about dribbling, and how to take control of the ball,” she said. “I have been to other football camps before, like the CIFA camp at the Truman Bodden. I am just starting back in football again, and one day, I would like to join ROMA,” she said.
It’s tough sometimes running around in the hot sun, and the kids get plenty of water and nice cool fruit punch too, as well as lunches and on the last day, even ice-cream and cotton candy, all for free, and thanks to the kind people who support the program, year after year. President Kennedy Ebanks said, “This camp is totally free, and includes a free meal for the children. We depend on support from the public, so anyone who wants to support it is welcome. Or if you want to come out, and assist as one of the volunteers, you are also welcome.”
Some of those people came to pay the camp a visit. George Town Elected Representatives Barbara Connnolly and David Wight and Joey Hew, along with Leader of the Opposition, Roy McTaggart. They all care about the kids so much they have supported them financially year after year. When their busy schedules allow, they come down and encourage the kids too, as well as all the helpers and volunteers. They were full of praise for the adult coaches and people in charge, who give up their valuable time, totally free, year after year because they love the kids and want the best for them. Most of the adult coaches grew up making lifelong friends while playing football together, and David Wight spoke fondly of former footballing pals Kennedy Ebanks, who is now President of FC international, and Elbert McLean who is the group’s Technical Director. He said that he wished there had been such a well organized football camp in his day.
Elbert McLean holds his own camp in Bodden Town, but still manages to make time for the FC international, because he sees it as an important part of Cayman’s future, “In summertime the kids need to come and get out of the house for three or four hours and do something active, learning discipline, teamwork, and keeping them positive. School’s coming up, and because they are attending camp, I can promise you one thing, the parents of these kids aren’t going to have any problem with them when they go back to school.”