Giles Barnes (pictured) celebrates after Jamaica's win over the USA in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals on July 22, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Mexsport)
ATLANTA – For Giles Barnes, it was one of those moments he never could have envisaged in his most remote of dreams.
Late in the first half of Wednesday’s pressure-packed Gold Cup semifinal, the dynamic attacker was positioned over the ball just outside of the USA’s 18-yard box. Already up a goal, courtesy of a well-placed header from teammate Darren Mattocks, the Reggae Boyz were firing on all cylinders. Momentum was in their favor. You could feel the energy.
“I knew when Giles stepped up to take the freekick, he had a chance,” said teammate Wes Morgan, who has known Giles since he was 13. “It’s something we’ve seen him do in training quite a few times. This was a big stage for him.”
It was there, on that big stage, under the glare of the Georgia Dome’s bright stadium lights and with millions of eyes upon him, that Barnes stood confidently. Two other teammates were also in the vicinity, but every Jamaican on the field knew who was going to take it. He parked over the ball like a prizefighter. You could sense the panache.
By the time the whistle blew, Barnes already had his spot picked out. American goalkeeper Brad Guzan was leaning. It all happened very quickly.
“As soon as I hit it, I had a good feeling about it,” said Barnes. “I knew it had the pace to beat the keeper, but I wasn’t sure it would clear the wall. When I saw it go in…well, it’s hard to describe that feeling. It was incredible.”
With the ball tucked securely in the back of the net, Barnes – overcome with emotion – tore off towards a patch of ecstatic Jamaican fans nestled in the lower level of the stadium. Teammates in tow, he leapt and karate kicked the corner flag. Others did too. It was a moment of pure delirium.
Yet there was a time, when Barnes would have thought this moment to be impossible.
“Thinking back five or six years ago, when I injured my achilles, I don’t think I could have imagined this,” the 26-year-old expressed. “It wasn’t really something that I thought was possible.”
But time flies in the world of international football, and now, fully fit, with his team’s place in the Gold Cup final guaranteed, Barnes was able to take a moment and reflect on just how much Wednesday’s victory over the defending champion meant to him.
“It’s quite a lot to take in, if I’m being honest,” he finished. “I’m on cloud nine. When I got back to the changing room, I had messages waiting for me from my mom and dad. That’s special. I know I’ll remember this night for a long, long time.“