J’can football coach McLaren making waves with Cayman U-17 girls
GEORGETOWN, Cayman Islands — Jamaican football coach Bobby McLaren is the talk of the town in the Cayman Islands after guiding the island’s national Under-17 girls team to their first final of the CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship scheduled for San Jose, Costa Rica from March 9-20.
The Caymanian girls were the last to qualify for the CONCACAF leg of the qualifiers and will match their skills against the mighty USA, hosts Costa Rica and Haiti in Group B, while Jamaica, Canada, Mexico and Panama will contest Group A.
McLaren, since taking the helm of the Cayman Islands’ national girls programme, has transformed the team and in the process silenced many detractors who claimed his mission was a futile one.
He and technical director of the National women’s programme Brazilian Thiago Cunha worked together in bringing the Under-17s to a level profiency that has brought them this far. Not only have they stressed that girls do well on the field of play, but have ensured that they concentrated on their academics.
“I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity by CIFA (Cayman Islands Football Association) to coach these players. They truly are an amazing team,” he said.
McLaren, a former student of St George’s College in Jamaica, said that his coaching skills came to the fore when he returned to Jamaica in 1998 from the United States.
As a student at St George’s College, McLaren played cricket and captained the Sunlight Cup team. He claims he also skippered the Colts football team before leaving to pursue business studies at the Excelsior Community College.
In his later years he was a central defender for Central Kingston in the Syd Bartlett League and Wanderers FC in the then National League before migrating to the United States in 1992.
On his return to Jamaica in 1998, McLaren under the urges of the Reverend Al Miller, coached a church football team in a competition run by the Whole Life Ministry Church.
His success at this level stimulated the minds of Peter Beckford and Ram Nairsingh to recruit him to assist in the rebuilding of the Wanderers Football Club and also to help uplift the youths in the Edgewater Community.
While holding the position of technical director of the Wanderers senior and youth teams, his coaching talents caught the eye of no other than former national captain and coach, Carl Brown, who is currently the technical director of the Cayman Islands national football programme.
But before working with Brown, McLaren did a stint under veteran Jamaican coach Winston Chung-Fah and the then Brazilian technical director Marcos Tinoco.
He assisted Chung-Fah at the Academy Football Club and played the role of head coach of Roma United Sports Club. His performance at both clubs caught the attention of CIFA president Jeffrey Webb. And the rest is history.
McLaren hold FA International coaching licence, FIFA coaching course certificate and a Jamaica Football Federation Level One certification.