HOUSTON – Growing up, London-born Giles Barnes would get a taste of Jamaica, literally and figuratively, and be reminded of his family’s roots there when he visited his grandparents.
Fast forward to last Saturday, when Barnes was celebrating his first international goal. He was surrounded by friends he grew up playing with in the English youth system, and had his parents watching from the stands.
It wasn’t the white and red of England he was wearing, however, but the green and gold of his grandparents' nation, Jamaica, who his family has a deep connection to.
“My Nan is a very proud Jamaican woman and obviously my granddad was as well,” Barnes - who scored in the 15th minute of the Reggae Boyz's recent win over Venezuela - told the media in Houston following his return to the Dynamo. “They raised my dad as a Jamaican boy. When I’d go into their house you would see the culture and they still spoke patois as well so it was not like they were speaking English around the house.
“It was a proud moment. My family came out and supported, so it was brilliant. I wanted to take my career to the next level. It was something that was broached to me a number of years back and it was just about putting it all together and getting it done.”
Jamaica first approached Barnes years ago about joining the Reggae Boyz. That process didn't pick up steam until early last year when he nearly joined the side for the Caribbean Cup. An injury killed that chance, but Barnes was free to join up with Jamaica two-and-a-half weeks ago after having his paperwork for a one-time switch approved.
Then, he got to play in front of friends and family as he helped Jamaica pick up the comeback victory over Venezuela amidst familiar faces.
“He said it was about time,” Barnes said of his former teammate Je-Vaughn Watson, now playing in MLS for FC Dallas, who actively recruited Barnes while with the Dynamo. “Me and Je-Vaughn are very good friends. My roommate, Wes Morgan, I’ve known for like 12 years. We were actually together in the Nottingham Forest academy. That was pretty smooth to go and room with someone you’ve known for a long time.”
Barnes' first pair of games was certainly a success. On top of the goal, he also notched an assist and drew praise from his coach, Winifred Schafer, and fellow players. He also got positive reviews from those back in Houston.
“I actually attended the Chivas [Guadalajara]-Santos Laguna game and of course we all had our phones on. It was no surprise he scored early in the game because we know the qualities Giles has,” Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle said. “Pleased for him from a personal point and I told him I’m delighted for him because he’s such a gem of a man.
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“I’m delighted for him from that perspective, but I’m delighted to have him back in our team. This is the club that pays his salary, so it’s great to have [him] working for us again and going into this game.”
Balancing club and country is something Barnes will likely have to get used to. Barnes said he would’ve flown back and played for Houston last Saturday in between Jamaica’s two games, but that did not come to pass.
For now, Barnes is focusing on getting back with the Dynamo but not without keeping an eye on this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“I hope so,” Barnes said about the possibility of playing in the regional tournament. “A goal and assist in two games, I hope that’s well enough.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.