- Cayman Islands head coach Ben Pugh speaks with FIFA.com
- The former Ipswich Town academy coach talks about his journey
- He previews his staff’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Suriname and Canada
The Cayman Islands have by no means gained a FIFA World Cup™ qualifying match of their whole historical past.
But that would lastly be altering in the close to future due to a 31-yr-previous from Shotley, a small village exterior Ipswich. Ben Pugh took over as the nationwide staff head coach and director of teaching for the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) in July 2019. At the time, the staff had been hovering simply over the very backside of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in 206th.
After six matches in League C in the Concacaf Nations League in 2019, the Cayman Islands, a group of islands with a complete inhabitants of round 65,000 folks, recorded 4 wins—a 3-2 victory over Barbados the most notable—all earlier than Pugh turned 30. That profitable marketing campaign has seen them rise to 193rd in the newest launch of the rating.
But what’s behind this rise and who precisely is Ben Pugh?
After working at Ipswich Town for eight years in a number of roles primarily centered on youth improvement, Pugh received a proposal to educate a membership in the Cayman Islands and it felt like the excellent time for him to take all of his learnings and experiences and put them to the take a look at.
Success with the membership noticed him transfer on to be an assistant with the nationwide staff earlier than transferring into the prime job in July 2019. He has helped write the philosophies and magnificence of play for CIFA, which is being carried out all through all age ranges. His emphasis on youth is absolutely mirrored in the nationwide staff, which is successfully a U-23 aspect with gamers as younger as 16 and 17 coaching frequently with the first staff.
“It’s been an excellent life and learning experience,” Pugh instructed FIFA.com. “Living in a completely different nation comes with its personal challenges, however it was a danger I used to be prepared to take to strive one thing a little bit completely different. I’ve had alternatives right here that perhaps I wouldn’t have had again dwelling. We’ve travelled to locations like the US Virgin Islands, Barbados and Sint Maarten. Playing groups like Barbados, Suriname and Canada is a actually good problem for me personally and for the staff.
“I got here with no actual expectations, each of the island and of the soccer. I used to be open-minded and wished to take it as is. When I received right here I used to be pleasantly stunned. The island is a actually good footballing place, from all ranges from the Under-8s all the manner as much as the senior league.
“The normal of play was higher than I assumed it will be. There are good technical gamers right here that wish to progress and play abroad. The footballing tradition confirmed with how we did in the Nations League. Nobody anticipated us to win any video games and we gained 4. That’s one thing we will definitely construct on for the future.”
The subsequent problem for Pugh and Co to construct on is available in the type of 4 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to be performed in March and June towards Canada (73), Suriname (141), Bermuda (169) and Aruba (200). Their journey begins with robust checks towards Suriname and Canada.
“They’re two wonderful groups however it provides us the alternative to play towards excellent gamers. Suriname have gotten 20 or so gamers throughout Europe. I feel they might shock a few folks as properly. It’s a implausible problem I’m trying ahead to and I’m embracing.
“From our gamers’ perspective these are experiences that they’ll perhaps not get once more or that they’ll bear in mind and treasure for the remainder of their lives. Canada have a Champions League winner inside their squad. It’s one thing we’re trying ahead to versus one thing we’re anxious about.
“I don’t think Caribbean football is documented well enough in terms of seeing what players can do. These games give our players the platform for people to have a look at them and maybe one or two will potentially get an opportunity to play football at a higher level off the back of them.”
The Cayman Islands have one full-time skilled of their ranks. Elijah Seymour at the moment plies his commerce in Romania with CS Tunari.
“We have a small pool of gamers to decide on from however a huge benefit is we will prepare frequently with them. We complement that with a few gamers we now have abroad.
“For the final 4 or 5 months we now have been coaching two or thrice a week. We are inclined to do evenings as a result of most of our gamers have full-time jobs, and that comes with its challenges as a result of a couple of them work in building and work in the warmth all day and we’re asking them to do a session. We must adapt that barely to fulfill the wants of the participant and what’s greatest for them.”
For a staff that is extraordinarily unlikely to qualify for the World Cup and that is trying to qualify for a first-ever Concacaf Gold Cup, how does Pugh measure success?
“It’s about breaking down these small obstacles. The island hadn’t gained a recreation in almost ten years earlier than our Nations League run of wins. Making little steps ahead is vital. We’ve by no means gained a World Cup qualifier, so hopefully we will get a lead to considered one of these video games and make a little little bit of historical past there and regularly preserve transferring ahead.
“Can we qualify for a Gold Cup? Yes; it’s extraordinarily tough. It can be an unbelievable achievement, however it’s not inconceivable if we put together correctly. We have a three-yr plan in place which began with the Nations League.
“If we will construct a staff round our youthful gamers, in two or three years we’ll be in a much better place. Ticking these little containers as we go, making little bits of historical past – they’re all steps to that greater objective.”