Tue, Jun

Rajpaul’s Christmas without dad.

This Christmas holiday for former national Under-20 midfielder Xavier Rajpaul will be like none other. It will be one spent without the most inspirational figure in his life, his father Darryl Rajpaul, a PNM councillor for Belmont East, who lost his life after a suffering a heart attack during a friendly match of football last month.

Rajpaul is holding onto aspirations of becoming a professional footballer and going onto play for this country’s senior team. But recently those ambitions almost turned to something of the past and it took a few timely pieces of advice to get Xavier back in line.

“I considered giving up football because it was too painful but one thing I frequently heard from family and friends is that I should continue working hard and fighting for my dream, which is to play football professionally,” said Rajpaul, a former St Anthony’s College player.

“But the one call that made me feel like playing again was when my friend Alvin Jones contacted me and we had a really great conversation about everything and the part that really stood out to me was about my dad’s legacy and the work he put in place to get me where I am at today.

“Alvin expressed that he has never experienced this feeling but his advice and the conversation just motivated me to get back to practice and work hard to become a professional player and to use this as a drive to get where I want to be and to live for him.”

Rajpaul and Jones were team-mates on the T&T U-20 team in 2012.

“My most inspirational figure is my dad, always has and will always be. He coached me throughout my life and would always recognise and tell me what I need to do better to grow as a player. I would not be the player I am today if it weren’t for his guidance,” Rajpaul said.

“From dad’s life I have taken away how humble he was as a person and how much he was willing to help someone else without expecting something in return. It has not been easy coping since his passing but having good friends and family around has been helpful in keeping my spirits up.”

The 23-year-old has completed his US College tenure which last four seasons with College of Charleston and Howard University. His 40-yard goal in 2015 earned the number two pick on ESPN’s Sportscenter’s top ten plays.

Though being plagued by injury in his fourth and final year, he still intends to return to the game and will be considering training with a local Pro League team next year before considering long-term options. He also had stints with the DC United U-23 team while based in the United States.

“My plan right now is to focus on reforming myself first by getting back into shape and in a good head space before I focus on the game again. I completed my final college last week so I have decided to move back home for the time being to stay close with the family. When Pro League teams start pre-season, I will try to train with a team if I don’t get anything abroad by that time,” Rajpaul said.

Shaun Fuentes served as an appointed FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals and is also a CONCACAF Champions League and tournament’s press officer.