National Senior Men’s captain, Rashad Jules was a much better athlete growing up, but he never shared the love for it the way he does football.
And even though he is still fast on his feet, he has found a way to mold the two together, making him one of, if not, the fastest, and arguably the most feared footballer in Barbados.
Jules began playing football in his home community of Brittons Hill after school on evenings, which eventually led to him playing junior football for Empire before he returned home to Brittons Hill and onto Barbados Soccer Academy and Kickstart Football Club.
He then went on to play for his alma mater St Leonard’s Boys’ School where the team secured both the Junior and Triple Crown Championships.
“My last year I scored 19 goals in 11 games to conclude my school run out in secondary school under Mr Asquith Howell and Fabian Massiah, who both coached me at St Leonard’s,” he said.
His first national appearance was on the Under-17 National Team, where he earned a straight ticket to the senior squad and entered the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme in 2012, where he has become a household name over the years.
“I would say I’ve had a pretty good run. It has been a lot more consistent than as a teenager, especially learning from my mistakes. I would not say I am satisfied because I always keep pushing, but it has been a decent run over the last five or six years.
“There is the possibility that I could wrap things up in the Sports Programme, but I always wanted to give back to my community, so I am not sure if I will go back to Brittons Hill as yet,” he said.
Quizzed about his athletic prowess, the midfielder said he agreed with whoever said he was a better athlete than a footballer during his school days.
“I was a better runner than I was a footballer, but I never liked the pressure that came with running a race. It was never in my heart to do it anyway so I never embraced the pressure. I just did it because it was representing, but I never enjoyed going out there and sprinting in front of how many ever people; it was never my passion,” he said.
However, he made it abundantly clear the pressure as an athlete was not the same as being a footballer.
“Football is my passion so I don’t feel the pressure. Playing against El Salvador in front of 52 000 people was more comfortable than running at the National Stadium in front of 1 000 people,” he admitted.
The ambidextrous player, who was forced to kick with his right foot after suffering a groin injury during last year’s football season, has had stints at Old Road FC in Antigua, Chicago Magic Soccer Club, Chicago Maneurs, Budapest Honvéd FC and Finland’s Kemi City FC. But he said his experience in Antigua was by far the best in terms of the support of the fans which he is a firm believer of and noted there was no greater feeling than being supported by the 12th man.
But working under Head Coach Russell Latapy is no walk in the park, as Jules said the former professional ace midfielder challenged him to do better and be better.
“Russell was and still is a great footballer. Working under him is not easy; it is not a walk in the park. As much as you think you’re doing great, he will always push you more to get better. Working under Russell has always been a challenge. Every training session, every game, in the lobby, he pretty much sets the standard of what he wants from his team. But if it’s not challenging you then it isn’t worth it. Every day you have to be challenged because you can’t go out there and be doing five when you should be doing six or seven, and that is exactly what Russell gets out of you,” he said.
The midfielder has been moved from his comfort zone to the top of the formation as a striker, but he said he trusted every coach and their reason for moving him.
“I’ve told Russell I trust him, and whatever he wants me to do I will do. If he wants me to jump off from anywhere, I will do it. And I believe that wherever Russell puts me on the pitch he believes that it is beneficial for the team, not necessarily for me, but for the team. I am not a fancy dribbler but I am fast, and we have talented players to play the through balls and split defenses, so whatever the coaches think is the right thing for that game, I adjust to that and trust the process,” he said nodding his head in agreement.
As for being the “most feared player in Barbados”, Jules dubbed down on the sentiment and said he only used his God-given talents to reach the top.
“I don’t strive to be one of the most feared players. I go out there every game and do whatever it takes to get on the score sheet and do whatever it takes for my team to win. I guess that is where people might believe I am an unfair player. Age doesn’t matter either. We still have some players up in age but is still a feared player like Mario Hart. You have to fear Mario Hart; he is a dangerous player and we’re always looking for every edge on the pitch,” he said.
Jules, who celebrates his 28th birthday today, ascended to the role of captain after Mario Harte left the team in 2018, a move he said that came as a shocker for him.
“I never expected that I would have one day captained the Senior Men’s National Team. It was a surprise to me, but I think I was ready when it happened. Yes, I wear the armband, but I have great support from players like Hadan Holligan, Raheim Sargeant and Ricardio Morris. There are other players around who help on the day in question if you’re not on top of your game. At the end of the day, the minimum requirement is to do what is asked of me. Anything expected I try to exceed and encourage my players to do the same,” he said matter-of-factly.
When COVID-19 forced sports worldwide to be halted, the team was in preparation for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Qualifiers, but the community man who was touted during last year’s sixth edition of the annual Elma Grant Annual Road Race Classic in his hometown said he didn’t take the outbreak of the virus seriously.
“At first I did not take COVID that serious. It wasn’t until I saw it affecting the bigger countries that I started to take it seriously. All the preparation we started from the Premier League was all in anticipation of the games against Guyana and then Trinidad and Tobago. I never lost hope that we would still play them so I never stopped training. It’s been a bit depressing and depriving of looking forward to playing the games, but I am still keeping myself fit so that whenever the borders open and we can go and play football and live our dream again, I will be ready,” he declared.
But he noted, there was a difference between being physically fit and football fit, which game time was necessary for.
“Even if I do cardio I still will not be match fit. I need game time in order to get my body to be match fit. But what about the guy that isn’t doing anything at all? The journey for me to reach match fitness again will be much easier than the person that is not doing anything. Although all the training I am doing now will not make me match fit, it will be easier to get back in the saddle,” he said.
The Liverpool fan has also suffered some major setbacks throughout the years, but he has always managed to rise above them, and bounce back bigger and better than before.
“It is amazing how people see things from the outside compared to what you’re going through as a player and an individual. The hiccups are big moments and as a player going through them, I don’t know how I will get through it. I just try to take it step by step and day by day. There are some people I would confide in to help me and pass some good words. Going through hardships is never easy, but at the end of the day, I still have this fire burning in me, this urge to do better and never drop below a required standard.
“I hold the captaincy of the national team for right now and I can’t go out there and be mediocre. I have to keep pushing and be fully committed as hard as it might be to set that example for my team. As easy as it might look to the people on the outside, I still have to give of my best. If I can’t give it 100, I don’t think I should give it five, and I would just hang up my boots.
“People always see the comeback, but it is hard to keep preparing and going after your dream. Sometimes I don’t realize how hard it was and how I get through it and end up back on the scene doing my thing,” he said.
The new daddy, who just celebrated his first Father’s Day, said nine-month-old baby Ayja was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“It has been pretty good being a daddy. I spend every moment I can with my daughter. I still find family time with all the duties I have to pull, but it’s awesome being a daddy,” he said flashing his trademark gold cap.
And as the sun begins to “set” on his football career, Jules, who has never idolized any other footballer, but who sees legendary Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge as a mentor, said he still had some fight left in him, and should anyone be interested in his talents, he was ready to go the distance.
“After 25 or so, you usually start to go down after a certain age if you allow it. But for now, football is still my number one priority, after Ayja. If the opportunity arises that they want me in whatever country, I will still go and push it. I wouldn’t say that I am contented with the opportunities I have had in the past, but I think I still have a good shot. I’ve come to the realization that at my age chances of me going abroad and going pro are slim to be quite honest, so as of now that is not my main focus. I am sticking with it though, and if I get better so be it. Until my time is up I will still give it the full 100,” he stressed.