Armando “Suga” Lashley has been playing football for the last 24 years, and with those years has come to the fortune of learning and growing, which led to him scoring his debut goal last year during the Concacaf Nations League.
The 28-year-old forward said he got into football after his dad used to take him to watch the sport as a youngster. It was like love at first sight; he joined the ranks of Paradise at age four and has never looked back.
Suga, who played for the Yellow Submarines for the last 24 years has had his highs and lows, but he said he would not trade them for the world as they have helped to mold him into the man he is today.
He started his national career at the youth level, but eventually stopped because he wasn’t enjoying it at the time. But when he got his call up to the Barbados Football Association’s top-flight team at age 17, he was more than ready for his debut on August 31, 2012, against St Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, he never played consistently as he had to compete with the likes of Mario Harte and Arantees Lawrence and had to wait his turn, which in turn became somewhat of a frustration.
“If I got on the field it used to be for five minutes and I couldn’t really do anything,” he said.
The Arsenal fan was dropped from the national side for a game against Martinique, and resolved never to go back to training. But after BFA’s Technical Director Ahmed Mohamed took charge of the seniors, he summoned Suga back to training and his national career resumed, not as a forward but as a winger.
Now with Head Coach and midfield wizard Russell Latapy at the helm, Suga, who has 26 national caps, said he is at the most comfortable he has ever been in his national career which spans the last decade.
“Latapy has allowed me to express myself. I would say he is the most comfortable person I played under, although he is a bit stricter than the rest. I would say he is the best coach I had. Over the years it was good, but with Latapy now I feel more comfortable,” he stressed.
And so influential has Latapy been on Suga that with his coaching, the Paradise captain secured his debt goal against USVI in a 4-0 defeat last October.
“That is something I wanted to happen for a long time. Up to this day, I still get butterflies because I still watch it. I feel like my teammates were happier for me than I was, especially Rashad Jules,” he said laughing.
Admitting he was somewhat of a loner, Suga said he could count on Jules to always offer words of encouragement and talk to him like a brother.
Being the leader of a team himself, Suga said he is able to translate those abilities within the national team, and he has learnt that he has to be able to take instructions from others, because he is a player first and captain after.
“As a player, you should always know that other players see the game differently, so you have to learn to take instructions. If you can’t take instructions then you shouldn’t be playing. I have the armband over Paradise, but I have to take instructions too,” he said.
And while he noted many times it seemed as though players were shouting at each other during play, the Alex Lacazette fan said it was usually words of encouragement, even though to the average Joe it often looked like there might be high words between teammates occasionally.
“Sometimes it would look like a player does be arguing with you, but a person does just be giving you encouragement. It does come off that way in the game, but you have to learn to take instructions as a player,” he stressed.
On a personal level, Suga said he had no intentions of going overseas to ply his trade as a footballer, but he was sure when he hung up his boots, which was a long way off, he would give back to the only team he has ever played for.
“I am looking forward to resuming training and getting back out there. During the time we were off from football, Coach sent out a training schedule. Even though I didn’t follow it most days, I still kept active so I am ready.
“After I finish playing, I will go back and coach Paradise for sure. Ain’t no other team I would go and coach either; Paradise till I die. I’m not really looking to go overseas and become a professional footballer. My football career is here, I don’t need to go overseas nor nothing so now; I blessed,” he said.