Cardel Benbow relishing call-up to senior Reggae Boyz

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Friday, October 10, 2014

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NIIGATA, Japan — Cardel Benbow, at first glance, looks an easy meal for any bully on the prowl.

But don't be fooled by his harmless demeanour and wiry, short frame, for therein lives a frightening beast of a footballer.

Many defenders, who initially take this 'little man' for granted, often end up on the business end of his sting because Benbow packs a deadly punch.

His demonic dribbling and rapid change of pace on those lean legs have been the ruin of many opposing teams -- from his stardom days as a St George's College standout, to Jamaica's national youth ranks, and now he reminds many that he still has it in the Red Stripe Premier League with an awesome-looking Waterhouse FC.

Having been called to the senior ranks by head coach Winfried Schaefer for the Reggae Boyz' friendly international against Japan tomorrow in Niigata, the 19-year-old attacker is licking his lips with anxiety, desperate for the chance to show that he can also be a force to be reckoned with on the senior international stage.

And he is a cocky fellow about it too.

"My strength is my dribbling skills, when I get it I have to go at the defenders, I never give the defenders time to relax... I make defenders mad when they see me," he told the Jamaica Observer at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea yesterday en route to Japan.

Without soliciting his view of Benbow, Schaefer felt compelled to make a point to this newspaper. "Hey, what you think of young Benbow?" Before this reporter could respond, the German offered the popular consensus. "Very good, ah... very quick, loves to dribble...I like that."

Case closed.

Though the emerging Benbow may not start the game tomorrow at 7:25 pm (5:25 am Jamaica time) at the Denka Big Swan Stadium, just being among the big Boyz is a thrill in itself for the Waterford, St Catherine, native.

"First I have to give God thanks because without him nothing would be possible... it is truly a good feeling to be called to the senior national team because most players would like to get this opportunity, but I just have to keep focused and keep working hard.

"I just want to it to be known that it's a great opportunity for one to represent his or her country, and being around some quality players with whom you have never played before is special in itself," said Benbow, sounding confident delivering each word.

But that self-assuredness did not come overnight. Benbow's glory years helping St George's College to many schoolboy titles, and falling under the expert tutelage of coach Neville 'Bertis' Bell, shaped this young man.

"I have to give coach Bell a big shout-out because he not only taught me about football, but also about life... he taught me a lot of things, including how to prepare myself to be a professional player," he said.

Benbow, a key member of Jamaica's Under-17 team to that FIFA World Cup in Mexico 2011, says as he grows as a player each stop along the way in pursuit of his dream has its purpose.

And being a part of the set-up of title favourites Waterhouse FC is also preparing him for his onward journey on a football odyssey that has only just begun.

"Waterhouse is a good team and they have welcomed me like a member of their family... it's like I am a senior player there the way they embrace me and show me love, so being there, is just like having fun like being at St George's," Benbow said.

His destination in the game is seemingly already set. There are no 'ifs', 'buts' or 'maybes', if his posture and rhetoric is to be taken as gospel.

"It's a dream for me, so now I have to just work hard because I would like to one day play in England, Spain or Germany, but I know I will have to continue to work hard and keep my focus all the way."

Having been to one World Cup already has not quenched Benbow's thirst. This greedy little chap wants more.

"That would be the biggest boost to my career to go to another World Cup...that would change my life," he said.

He is already chasing that dream even before the 2011 magic has fizzled.

"It was a great experience at the World Cup in Mexico, and it was special also because I was on the team with some quality players like Andre Lewis, Alvas Powell, Romario Jones, to name a few," Benbow recalled with a smile.

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