Coach Bender, skipper Bradford revel in Camperdown's progress

Observer writer

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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The first team to qualify for the quarter-final round of the ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup 2018 was Camperdown High.

The school had failed in its last three attempts to advance beyond the second round of the competition, and both the players and members of the coaching staff were overcome with emotion after a nerve-racking two-leg play-off with Excelsior High.

Camperdown won the first leg 1-0 before they lost the second leg by the same margin, which left the tie to be decided by the dreaded penalty kicks. They eventually prevailed 4-2 from the spot, with their talisman Shaquille Bradford completing the task for the 1982 Manning Cup champions.

Coach Christopher Bender, who was a part of that 1982 winning team, was left teary-eyed after the win, which he described as a pivotal moment in the season.

“It was a pivotal moment for us. It was up and down and we know it would probably go to the death. Once we got to the penalty kicks we knew we had a chance, because these guys are resilient. They are tough and don't want to give up, and that was reflected in the game,” he said.

Bender is looking forward to the quarter-finals with great optimism and has drawn a line in the sand as to where he can claim he has had a good season.

“Definitely the project continues. We did well in September and we are now doing well in October. We need to get to November and still be doing well. Once we get to November we can say we have a achieved something.

“Right now we have not achieved anything as yet. The job right now, which is a difficult one, is to keep them (players) composed and keep their feet on the ground in terms of complacency, which is a very big challenge with some of the young ones. We have some 15-year-old and 16-year-old and it gets difficult to keep them grounded, but that is a part of my job — to keep them grounded,” he explained.

Having played only once before in the then Super Cup, the coach is relishing the opportunity to participate in the newly renamed ISSA Champions Cup.

“It is very important. We have only done it once before and again, it's a tribute to the guys to really come out and play. It was really, really tough getting there and we get there undefeated, allbeit that we lost today, but we never give up and its very important that we get to play in the Champions Cup.”

Camperdown captain Bradford, like many of his teammates, could not contain the emotions after the win and wept openly. For him the victory was extremely special after repeated failures.

“I was very nervous when I was going to take the penalty. I have played in the Manning Cup three times but never passed this stage. I usually drop out at the same stage at the round of 16. I feel very glad; I am so happy to make it this year,” he said.

He recognised that his team had not performed at their best in the second leg, but knows what needs to be done for the next phase of the competition.

“Well, we didn't play so well; we played better in the first-leg but we have to just train harder and come again.”

Camperdown have been drawn in a very tough group for the quarter-final round with the likes of Charlie Smith, St George's College and Kingston College. They will play Charlie Smith with whom they drew twice in the first round in their first quarter-final game tomorrow, before taking on St George's College then Kingston College to close out the round.

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