The Cayman Islands Under 20 Men’s National Football Team secured a sensational 2-2 draw with Guatemala in a thrilling Group F encounter on Thursday evening at the CONCACAF Men’s Under 20 Championships at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Before taking to the field in the IMG Stadium, the Cayman Islands contingent were informed that legendary football coach Winston ‘Chung Fah’ Chung had passed away that afternoon. With heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, the coaching staff led their players out on to the field to do battle with Guatemala, the number two seed in Group F.
Prior to kick-off, a minute of silence was observed in honour and remembrance of the legendary FIFA coach.
The game started at a frenetic pace with the Guatemalans taking the offensive, pinning the local boys in their half and not allowing them any possession.
Although under pressure, the Cayman Islands fashioned the game’s first real scoring opportunity in the 9th minute as Kion Parchmont failed to make contact with a wonderfully floated cross off the boot of Rohelio Wright.
Four minutes later, the Guatemalans were awarded a very controversial penalty.
Cayman’s shot stopper Albertini Holness got his hands to the penalty but not enough to prevent the Guatemalans from taking the lead. 1-0 to Guatemala.
The local boys were holding their own as they withstood the Central American’s numerous attacks.
In the 30th minute, a wonderful solo finish by Cayman’s centre forward Kion Parchmont levelled the score at 1-1after he latched on to a perfectly weighted Trey Ebanks pass.
Guatemala regained the lead in the 33rd minute after the Cayman defence failed to deal with a dangerous cross from the oppositions left flank.
In the 41st minute, just before half time, Cayman had a shout for a penalty as Kion Parchmont was bundled over in the Guatemalan penalty area, but the Panamanian referee saw no foul and waived play to continue.
In the 48th minute, the Cayman Islands made their first substitute as Trey Ebanks made way for Mason Duval and in the 55th minute, Jayden Downey was replaced by Cody Ebanks.
These key substitutions proved to be a turning point in the game as six minutes later, Duval levelled the score at 2-2 as he pounced on a rebound from a Leighton Thomas 30-yard ‘pile driver’ that the Guatemalan goal keeper could not properly deal with.
Feeling somewhat embarrassed with the score line, the Guatemalans poured everything into attack but could not break down the resilient Cayman midfield and rearguard.
Cayman’s goal keeper Albertini Holness had another great game as he was exceptional between the posts.
In the 65th minute, the local boys had a second valid penalty claim waived away as Kion Parchmont was clumsily brought down in the penalty area by the Guatemalan goal keeper.
The assistant referee began to raise his flag to signal a foul had been committed but quickly put it down after the referee failed to blow his whistle.
In the 84th minute, Jah Dain Alexander was introduced for Cody Ebanks to solidify the midfield and defence.
In the 89th minute, against the run of play, the Cayman Islands had the chance to ‘steal’ the show but Leighton Thomas’ masterful lob over the on-rushing Guatemalan goal keeper trickled agonisingly wide of the post.
The local boys fought through the extra three minutes of play and at the sounding of the final whistle, the Cayman Islands’ bench erupted with joy.
The Cayman Islands had just drawn with a major footballing nation from Central America – what an achievement for this group of players and the nation they represent. Coach Chung was smiling from the heavens.
Coach Chung’s favourite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote, which he often repeated before the many Cayman Islands senior and youth national team games he oversaw throughout his tenure as Technical Director and National Coach, rang true on this night… “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained in sudden flight but, they while their companions slept, they were toiling upwards in the night.”
A fitting tribute from a great man who touched so many.
The Cayman Islands’ final game in the 2018 CONCACAF Under 20 Men’s Championships is against:
Curacao at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 10th.
The team returns to the Island on Sunday, November 11th.
Chairperson, CIFA Youth Committee