Congrats to our Footballers of the Year

Five young people who excelled on the pitch during the 2016/17 football season in the Cayman Islands were rewarded for their hard work and performance at the inaugural Cayman Sports Buzz Footballer of the Year Awards on 27 September.

Jonah Ebanks of Academy Sports Club and Karl Solomon of Bodden Town Football Club were named the joint winners of the Male Footballer of the Year, while Shanice Monteith of Elite Sports Club took home the prize as Female Footballer of the Year. Cayman Athletic Sports Club’s Albertini Holness and Sunset Football Club’s Molly Kehoe were named Male and Female Emerging Footballer of the Year, respectively.

“It was a tough ask to select the best of the best,” said editor Ben Meade. “So, it’s no surprise that we have a tie for one of the awards.”

Ebanks led the Cayman Premier League in scoring with 17 goals, as his team secured a finish in the top half of the table. Solomon starred in midfield for Bodden Town Football Club, which won the Cayman Premier League and FA Cup titles.

Karl Solomon and Jonah Ebanks were the joint winners of the Male Footballer of the Year award.

Monteith captained her Elite SC team to an amazing season that ended with three pieces of championship hardware for the club: CIFA Women’s League, CIFA President’s Cup and FA Cup.

Kehoe was a star midfielder for Sunset FC’s girls’ teams, playing in U13, U15 and U18 competitions in which the club swept league and FA Cup titles. She was also solid in play for Cayman Prep in Private School Association football competitions.

Holness, a goalkeeper, represented Cayman Athletic at the U17 and U21 youth levels. In addition, he moved up to the senior team in the Cayman Premier League and took over as his coaches’ first choice between the pipes.

Reflecting on Ebanks’ selection, his coach Jack Brazil said it was merited because he is a hard worker, who excelled on the pitch to lead his team to fourth place in the league and a runner-up spot in the FA Cup.

“Jonah is very committed in everything that he does. Throughout the year, he worked very hard to become a better footballer,” said Brazil, who took over as the volunteer coach for Academy’s men’s team ahead of last season.

For his part, Ebanks was pleased with the award. “I’m very happy about it. I put in a lot of work this year, so I’m glad that I could be rewarded for all the hard work I put in,” he said. I have good support behind me like my coach and family, who really pushed me to do my best.”

Meantime, Solomon shined on a team full of star players. His energetic play and intensity on and off the ball were a big reason for Bodden Town’s success. “In training, he puts the effort out. In matches, he puts out even more effort. His conditioning is great, that’s why his work-rate is so high,” said BTFC coach Elbert McLean.

Solomon was surprised when he was notified at a training session about his selection. “It was shocking but hard work pays off. Thanks for my coaches and all my teammates who have been pushing me,” he said.

Female Footballer of the Year Shanice Monteith collects her trophy from Cayman Sports Buzz editor Ben Meade.

Monteith was the stand-out player on a team that lost only one match last season. Although she scored only four goals, she could be credited with setting up many more of the 21 her side scored in the league.

“Shanice is special because she started from a very young age and has worked hard to get to where she is now. Her skill is just amazing and I think she can do amazing things. She is very special in terms of leading the team. She motivates the rest of the team because she is so capable of doing so many things,” said Elite Sports Club president and women’s coach, Martha Godet.

Although she earlier won the CIFA Women’s Player of the Year, the Elite captain said she did not expect to be named for the Cayman Sports Buzz award. “It was a surprise…I saw it promoted on Facebook but I wasn’t expecting to win it. So, it is an honour to win this and to see the hard work that I put in is paying off,” she said.

As for being described as a role model by her coaches, Monteith said: “It makes me feel good to know that all the girls look up to me and to be a positive role model to them, especially to the younger girls who are playing on the women’s team.”

Emerging Female Footballer of the Year Molly Kehoe.

In a community rich with talent among girls playing the sport, the selection of the Female Emerging Player of the Year was a difficult one. “It was truly a task for this one because of so many quality young ladies who have made their various marks on the sport but in the end, I’m pleased with our selection,” said Meade.

Kehoe, a multi-sport star, was a constant presence for Sunset FC’s girls’ teams. She made her presence felt in midfield and scored goals at each level, including a league-leading eight in the U18 league.

“To me, it is her determination, passion and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team to get a victory,” said Gisela Gamba, one of her club coaches. “I wish that after watching her, the other girls can get the same passion and motivation that she does when she plays. It is very nice to coach her.”

Kehoe said: “I feel very proud of myself. It was good playing with different teams. I enjoy playing with my friends and I just love this sport.”

Emerging Male Footballer of the Year Albertini Holness.

Holness was previously named the top goalkeeper in the U21 Men’s League and constantly wins the praise of his club’s technical director, Ernie ‘Gillie’ Seymour, who also coaches him on the national U20 men’s team.

“One of the things that makes him a special player is that he is so coachable. He is very disciplined. He is one player that I can’t even recall, in all the years that I have been coaching, to have had to discipline for any reason. He’s a very coachable player and a phenomenal kid. It’s just a joy to be associated with him and coaching him,” Seymour said.

“I’m very excited but surprised that I won,” said Holness, who at 16-years-old last season made his Cayman Premier League debut. “I was nervous because I never played against older guys before…but it was very good experience for me.”

Cayman Sports Buzz was launched in 2016 to provide an avenue for constant coverage of all local sports, as well as athletes and reams representing the Cayman Islands at international competitions.

“We remain committed to carrying out our role in the community being a partner of the athletes, the coaches, the administrators in highlighting our young people,” Meade said. “We do believe by uplifting the young people, we may inspire them to keep going on. If we can play just one tiny fraction of what it takes to inspire just one young person to pursue their dream, we would have done our job.”

Sports Councillor David Wight (left) delivered remarks at the awards.

The awards were sponsored by Artiem Solutions, Cayman Cabana, Cayman Life TV, Artista Salon and Winners Circle Sports.

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