BTFC back on top as CIFA Premier League Champions

Bodden Town FC defeated East End United 3-0 Sunday night at the Annex to secure their first Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) Premier League title since 2017, finishing the 2019/20 season ahead of the defending champions, Scholars International, who had to settle for the bridesmaid’s spot.

The game was played minus fans due to CIFA regulations designed to comply with government COVID-19 restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

Bodden Town FC players, management and support staff

After a first half in which neither side separated themselves on the field or on the scoresheet, and shaking off the rust of not having played a meaningful match since March, it was substitute Dexter Monroe putting Bodden Town ahead three minutes after the halftime interval.

Ricoh Brown tapped the ball ahead of the East End defence and placed perfectly for Monroe to chip past keeper Andrew Samuels from just inside the 18-yard box.

“We would have liked to start Dexter but…we had to make sure that he had enough in the tank to come on in the second half. That was the aim, to try and bring on some fresh legs, knowing his potential and evidently, it paid off,” explained coach Danu Smith.

Ricoh Brown scored from a set-piece in the 68th minute and then Christopher Avila Hall took a pass from captain Karl Solomon in the attacking third to easily finish past veteran netminder Miguel Pitta in the 73rd. Pitta replaced Samuels earlier in the second half.

After that, it was pretty much cruise control for the squad in purple, as they were on a clear path to the title. Bodden Town needed only a draw, having entered the game with a three-point cushion on Scholars, who were playing Sunset FC at the same time in West Bay. Scholars won 3-0 thanks to a hattrick from Rodrick Pearson.

“Bodden Town is back on top,” veteran winger Tevon Levien declared after the team was presented the trophy by CIFA President Alfredo Whittaker and Cabinet Minister/Bodden Town West MLA Dwayne Seymour, who is also a vice president of the club.

“I’m so happy that we got a chance to conclude the season. I hope next season we can show the league that we can do this again and that it is not just a one-off situation,” said Danu Smith who, along with Ramon Sealy, coached the squad under the guidance of head coach Elbert McLean.

“It’s a great feeling the fact that you can transition from just being a player and then imparting the knowledge that you have garnered over the years to some of these players who were once my teammates,” said Smith, who was a player/coach the last time BTFC won the league crown. “To see them carrying it out and lifting the trophy at the end of the day, [I’m] elated.”

It was not always a dream season for BTFC after becoming embroiled in controversy when some of its players received lengthy suspensions following an attack on referee Ben Whitty at the end of a match versus Academy Sports Club in January.

Levin, seen in some quarters as the spiritual leader of the squad, said that ugly incident led to some internal reflection. “We were in the news a lot but during the lockdown, we had a lot of time to think and as soon as the restrictions were lifted, everybody came out to training which was an indication of the hunger and the desire to remain on top,” he told Cayman Sports Buzz.

Veterans like himself and Jonathan Ebanks said they had a role to play to ensure the team remained focused on the goal of winning the league title. “That’s where us as elder guys step in. Sometimes things don’t go as expected but keep grinding at it and we get the result that we want,” Ebanks said.

Levin added: “As senior players, we have definitely set the standard for the younger players and they look up to what we achieved, and they want to achieve that as well.”

For Brown, returning to the pinnacle of the league and contributing with a goal and an assist in the finale touched a personal note, having lost his father, Emmanuel Brown, in a tragic boating accident last summer. “Everything was for him. Everything was for him,” the attacking midfielder stated about dedicating his play to the memory of his father.

Ricoh Brown: “Why Always Us?”

Looking ahead, Bodden Town expects to have the chance to represent the Cayman Islands at the Concacaf Caribbean Shield and defending their title when the new season begins in September.

“The aim is to try and ensure that we can represent as well as possible, so preparation will start from as early as two weeks’ time so we can if not replicate what we did this season but to try and improve as well,” said Smith.

In other weekend results: Roma United beat North Side 3-0 with Keneil Hillock, Christopher Beckford and Andre Allen finding the net; Academy and Latinos drew 1-1 with goals from Trey Ebanks (Academy) and Clarence Kelly (Latinos); and George Town SC defeating Elite SC 2-1 with goals from Navaro Pearson and Raheem Robinson for GTSC and Christopher Reeves for Elite.

Next up are the finals of the CIFA President’s Cup on Sunday, 23 August at the Annex. League champions Elite SC face rivals Scholars International in the women’s game, and Latinos FC meets Scholars FC to battle for the men’s trophy.

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