Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Parkes relishing second chance

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMNodley Wright
Boys' Town forward Romeo Parkes (left) is challenged from behind by Montego Bay United's defender Orlando McBayne during a Red Stripe Premier League match at Collie Smith Drive in 2012.
Romeo Parkes (left), moves away from his Cuban counterpart Diz Pie Arturo during a friendly international football match between Jamaica and Cuba at the Montego Bay Sports Complex last year.
Romeo Parkes (right), then of St George's Sports Club, taking a shot in a National Premier League match against Tivoli Gardens at the National Stadium in 2009.
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Reggae Boy Romeo Parkes thought that that one moment of madness would have been the end of his career. A life ban would surely be the consequence of his uncharacteristic out of the blue attack on an opponent in May 2016, Parkes thought.

Having dreamed of becoming a household name since his days as a teenager in St Mary, the six-footer shot to prominence the world over not for his football skills as he had desired, but for the violence meted out to Red Bulls II defender Karl Ouimette. Images and videos of his kick to the opponents' back spread like wildfire over social media and Parkes' infamy grew.

"I was really zoned out, and when I got back to the locker room, I thought about everything and knew it was very serious. I knew I was in danger of losing everything I had dreamed of and worked hard for. I had responsibilities, and now I put myself in a position where I would be unable to do anything," the attacking player explained.

With Ouimette hospitalised, the backlash was swift. The man who came to prominence as a 17-year-old when he represented St George's FC of Portland was fired by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The United Soccer League (USL) followed suit with an indefinite ban, and FIFA did its bit, dishing out a global ban until October 2016.

With the reality of the situation sinking in, Parkes said that it all poured out of him in tears.

"I cried for days at the time. I was thinking the worst - that I could be banned for life."

Sentiments were being expressed that he would never play for the club again or even in the United States. One year later, however, Parkes, now a resident of the United States, is back playing in that country and with the Riverhounds.

Parkes, who had previously played in El Salvador, looked back to that country for an outlet once the ban was lifted. Metapan reached out to him immediately after he was sacked, but he could not take up the offer due to the FIFA ban. They took him with open arms, but once the season ended, he needed to be occupied. Parkes said that he knew that his agent was working on an opportunity for him but did not know it was with the Riverhounds.

WELCOMED MOVE

"I didn't know that this was going to happen. My agent called me to say I had an offer from the club, and we sat down and thought about it and made the decision," a relieved Parkes shared.

Parkes welcomed the move as it offered him a chance at redemption.

"I owed the Riverhounds something. I only played five games for them last season. I did not want that to be the memory or legacy I left with the team, and for me, it is a joy to return so that I can correct that and show them who I really am.

'There were so many things going on at the time and I can't really explain how that incident happened," said Parkes.

While he has not had a chance to speak with Ouimette since his return, Parkes said that he spoke with him shortly after the incident.

"Right now, I am just thanking God for this opportunity. I am thanking the owner for not closing the door on me; my teammates, for embracing me; and the fans, for not closing their hearts to me. I really want to repay their faith in me," pledged Parkes, who has registered one goal in four games since his return in early May.

"I was hoping for a second chance. I got it, and I'm hoping to make use of it."