Rico “Dick” Graham has always dreamed about becoming a professional footballer, but a knee injury set a series of events in motion that might force him to rethink that idea.
The defender, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Father’s Day, said he would play the game he so loved for at least one more season, before hanging up his boots for good.
Graham began playing football for St Ambrose Primary before joining the ranks of Oxley United. He moved onto Kickstart Football Club and enjoyed a fruitful nine-year run, travelling to both England and the United States of America to represent his club.
From there, he went onto Weymouth Wales, where he won both the Premier League and the Knockout Cup, before he went on loan to Gall Hill. Following that loan period, where Gall Hill was relegated, he made his debut for the Barbados Football Association’s senior squad against Aruba where he was named man of the match.
After his season at Gall Hill, he headed back to Kickstart for a short stint, but now he is back at Wales.
Over the years, the Manchester United fan described the game as great, but he said he was never privileged to be playing at 100 per cent having suffered a bad knee injury after a bad tackle.
“I’ve always had a slight knock throughout my career and was never fully fit, but was always good enough to compete. I was out for about six months with soft tissue damages, but it never caught back itself. I would play for three months, but if I land bad or twist bad I would get another injury that would have me out for a couple of months, so it’s always been recurring,” he said.
While the Christiano Ronaldo fan said the injury has not kept him back, he said he played football the majority of his life under painkillers.
But now things had taken a turn for the worst and the last game Graham played was against Canada in January in two back-to-back friendlies.
“When I came back I did an MRI on my knee. I thought it was time to find out what was really going on with my knee instead of just playing under painkillers. I found out my meniscus is torn, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is torn and there is a split on my shin bone and I have patellar tendonitis,” he said.
And even though he acknowledged a lot of people would not play football with the injury, he said football was his passion.
“People would often say I am out there running and getting back out, so they would never believe I have such a serious injury. But my passion for the game keeps me going and when I go out on the field I give it my all. I also know it is dangerous for me because playing on Voltaren or different painkillers is not good for my stomach, but I would try to switch them up and take Voltaren or ibuprofen or Cataflam at different points so that I don’t get immune from using one painkiller. When I get on the field I like to put 150 per cent because I love playing football. Even now I would love to get back out there but . . .,” he said as his voice trailed off.
When asked what his decision would be if the doctor told him he could no longer play, Graham said he honestly believed that is exactly where he was headed.
“I think that is what exactly will happen because the injury is to that stage already. I went to the surgeon and she said I definitely need surgery because of the meniscus, but she didn’t think I would be able to play again after. If that is the case I would try to give it one more season without the surgery and see how it goes, but even walking now my knee slips out so I know it’s really bad now,” he said.
However, if this was a sign for Graham to hang up his boots after earning nine national caps, he said kudos must be given to Head Coach Russell Latapy and the work he has accomplished with the senior team.
“Coach Latapy is a very professional coach and I think he has a lot to offer. He’s really good at what he does, and he motivates the players and the management staff and everything. I used to watch him play from before.
“COVID-19 kind of slowed us down because I think we were headed to the peak where we could qualify for the Gold Cup. The break could be good, but it could also be bad. We don’t know how other teams are doing when it comes to working out. We haven’t trained as a team for three months. Yes, we had workouts to do at home, but the question still has to be asked how many players would be honest to push themselves and do the workouts at home? It is one thing to be fit, but it is another to be match fit. I think Coach Russell has it covered and within a couple of weeks we will be match fit,” he said matter-of-factly.
Graham said he was looking forward to the resumption of training even though it meant he would be warming the bench, but he is prepared to give as much support from the bench as he does on the pitch.