Scholars International Sports Club scored their first regional win in over 20 years Friday (5 April) with a 2-0 victory over Guyana’s Fruta Conquerors in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Shield held at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad, Curacao.
Prior to the inception of the CFU Club Shield in 2018, Caribbean football clubs with both professional and amateur skill levels would compete against each other in the CFU Club Championships. In the championship format, Scholars had not won a game in their only two appearances (2016, 2017) dating back to 1997. With the win, Scholars becomes just the fourth Cayman Islands football club all-time to win at the senior Caribbean club format.
A Vurlon Mills own-goal in the 42nd minute put the 2018 Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) champions up 1-0 before half. Forward Rodrick Pearson told Cayman 27 a 3 p.m. kickoff under midday sun played a key factor.
“We worked really hard and put it all out there,” said Pearson. “We underestimated ourselves in the first half. We were trying to feel out the team and see what Guyana was all about, and that threw us off the game plan. After 35 minutes, we picked it up and moved the ball more.”
In the second half, Scholars were confident they had solved the Guyanese squad’s tendencies and set their sights on padding the lead.
“We knew what we had to do,” said Pearson. “We got a good talk from Coach on the other teams weaknesses. We pushed forward, continued pressure, made on and off the ball runs. We really stepped us knowing Guyana was on our level. We showed them what a team from Cayman is made of.”
With Pearson entering the game in 65th minute, the Scholars forward line was injected with a fresh set of legs. On defense, the West Bay club kept a stranglehold on an ineffective Guyanese offense, and a lax defense.
“The defense was amazing, Maynor Rodriguez was phenomenal,” said Pearson. “He was in the way of every shot. They played a lot of fastball, had lots of possession, but we mixed it up. We hit some long balls to test their defense, then we penetrated more. They weren’t man-marking us, they were all two feet off. For our forwards, which is all speed, that’s a lot of space.”
In added time, Pearson led the Scholars offense down the pitch to seal the win.
“The ball was played out to me, I took it down the line,” said Pearson. “I saw Raul (Rodrigues) who was working hard, so I gave him a through ball on pace. His shot was deflected, but he gathered the rebound, faked the keeper and slotted it in.”
A historic win in exhausting conditions.
“I didn’t even celebrate the goal I was so tired,” said Pearson. “We didn’t hear our coaches yelling too much, so we know we did a good job.”
Scholars will play next Sunday (7 April) versus Puerto Rican champion Santiago de Cuba, and Tuesday (9 April) versus host nation club champion Jong Holland.
Note: Here are the four victories all-time by club champions from the Cayman Islands versus Caribbean club champions at the Caribbean Football Union senior format dating back to 1997;
2011: Bodden Town Football Club 1 v 0 River Plate (PR);
2012: Elite Sports Club 1 v 0 North Rams (BER)
2018: Bodden Town Football Club 2 v 1 Cayon FC (SKN)
2019: Scholars International 2 v 0 Fruta Conquerors.
George Town Football Club defeated Elite Sports Club 2-1 in the 2012 CFU Club Championships when the tournament was held in Grand Cayman, giving Cayman Islands football teams five overall wins in the Caribbean club champion format.