NewslineTCI has named the Turks and Caicos Islands Under 14 Girls Football Team as the 2021 Performer of the Year.
The history-making girls became the first and only football team from the Turks and Caicos Islands at any level, male or female, to reach a regional or international tournament final, after making it to the final of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under 14 Challenge Series, only to be edged by heavy tournament favourites, Aruba.
The TCI were edged by Aruba in their group fixture, but Head Coach Olivia Gravely, as well as President for the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) Sonia Fulford-Missick, believe that it would be a fight to the wire, but are convinced that when the dust is settled, the local girls would rule the roost.
The team played with great consistency during the tournament, only to be beaten by the eventual winners, in the preliminary and the final. Those who had the good fortunes of watching the games could have seen the confidence and composure displayed by the girls, even in the games in which they fell behind.
It was easy to see that the Girls responded well to coaching, and kudus should go out firstly to Sonia Fulford-Missick, President of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) in choosing the right persons for the job, who in turn, picked a team that did the TCI proud.
Fulford-Misick told NewslineTCI, at the time, that the team talks always resulted in good results, whether in wins or excellent performance on the field in losing efforts. Fulford-Missick said the girls were always mentally ready heading into each game, which she said translated on the field.
Fulford-Missick said the level of development displayed by the girls was something that had not gone unnoticed, hence the confidence they displayed going into each game.
“The girls have a certain belief in themselves now that we are proud to see,” Fulford-Missick said at the time, noting that, as an association, the performance by the girls was a feather in the TCIFA’s cap.
“It (Girls’ performance) really makes us feel great as an association because youth football development is among our main focus. We are trying to rejuvenate our women’s football and we are putting a lot of support behind,” she said.
Much applause should also go to Head Coach for the team, Olivia Gravely, who whipped the girls into shape.
At one point, Gravely told us that: “They (Girls U14) are going in like warriors. Just by the energy and the way the girls are feeling, I can tell that they are not going to leave that pitch unless they are going to give it their all.”
Gravely said she could not be happier with the current crop of players, who she said, had shown tenacity and grit.
“If there was ever a moment we could use the phrase, ‘hard work pays off’, its now. I would never forget two, three years ago, when we entered this competition, when we were the youngest team within the competition, we always told the girls, ‘Yes, we know you are young, but if you work hard for the next couple of years, you would be on top’, and so said, so done. All the work the girls have put in over the years, its starting to genuinely pays off,” she told NewslineTCI at the time.
Gravely revealed that the vast improvements of the Under 14 Girls created a team pride, which has motivated them beyond belief.
One should not forget leadership of the rest of the coaching staff, led by Technical Director of the Woman’s Football Programme, Yunelsis Baez, Dane Ritchie, who is now the Technical Director for the TIFICA overall football programme, and Gillian Vernice, who gave yeomen support.
We deem track and field athlete Tanesia Gardiner to be a close second, after a blistering year on the track and in the field. Gardiner’s exploits earned her the firs ever athlete of the month award by Women in Sports. Gardiner broke the Under 17 Female record in High Jump at the CARIFTA Trials held in May.
Gardiner, a student of the Clement Howell High topped the 2021 National Inter-High School Road Race Female Category, held on Thursday, November 18 in Providenciales. She crossed the finish line in a time of 22.21.44 seconds to become the overall female winner.
In October, Gardiner also put in a sterling performance at the Elite 5 Kilometer Run in Naples, Florida. She placed second out 11 females and first in the 15-19 age group with a time of 22 minutes 4 seconds.
She was a sure medal at the botched 2021 Carifta Track and Field Championship scheduled to have been held in Bermuda Islands, but due to a rise in COVID-19, that country put a lid on the games.
We expect big things for her this year, barring any unforeseen happenings.
In the meantime, it is expected some of the Under 14 players, could very well make it to the senior level, based on their impressive display in training.