Goalie battles back from severe knee injuries to play for The Bahamas in Nations League competition
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago – Julio Jemison has been one of the top local custodians in goal for The Bahamas in the game of soccer. However, the goalkeeper has had two major surgeries. Be that as it may, he did not let that stop him from getting back between the posts and performing well for The Bahamas. Jemison rose to the top. He’s currently the starting goalkeeper for The Bahamas senior men’s national soccer team, helping them get a victory in the first window of the 2022 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Nations League competition last Friday.
Jemison, an electrical engineering major at the University of The Bahamas (UB), received a message from senior men’s national team head coach Nesly Jean back in March of this year, asking if he was interested in playing on the national team. Jemison answered that call and began training. This past Friday against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jemison got a clean sheet as The Bahamas won 1-0.
“Going into that game I just wanted to keep the sheet clean,” Jemison said. “After the 25th minute, we did not concede a goal which was good because we tend to give up one goal in the first 25 minutes. Once we got past that period, the game started to shift. My first big save came in the 28th minute. It helped with my confidence and my drive.”
Jemison is set to start once again for The Bahamas this coming Friday when they take on Nicaragua at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. He said it was a great feeling being back on the team playing for The Bahamas and added that it was an uphill battle to get back to this point. The UB senior first tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and medial and lateral meniscus in his right knee in 2016. After bouncing back, he tore the meniscus in that same knee in 2019. After the first injury healed, Jemison was able to play in the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Beach Soccer World Cup in The Bahamas in 2017.
“In 2019, I suffered another setback and tore my meniscus in the same right knee. That one was a tough one. Coming back after one was rough but two, it is a different type of battle there. That happened in a game against Turks and Caicos,” Jemison recalled.
The second injury was a tough one for him to come back from. After the surgery, and when the pain medications had wore off, Jemison realized how much of a battle he had ahead of him if he wanted to return to playing sports. The 28-year-old began rehabilitation of the knee a week after surgery.
“I had to get that range of motion back. That is one of the toughest parts – getting that range of motion back. Afterwards, I did strength training as I went from pushing 2-3 plates with my legs forward and back to 10 points. It was, it was embarrassing a little. Everybody else lifting those big weights, and here I was trying to get it in but it was tough. I was up at 5 o’ clock every morning getting some therapy and sometimes I was back again in the afternoons because there was a lot of work to be done,” Jemison said. “After I got most of the strengthening done, then I went into balancing, which is the tricky part of things. I did some single-leg balancing and after that I did some sports-specific movements and that along with the balancing was the scary part.”
Jemison was working hard to get back to his old form when he helped UB capture the Bahamas Football Association’s (BFA) Senior League men’s title for the 2017-2018 season. He had a few down moments, pondering on whether or not he should have returned to the soccer pitch.
“There were a few times when I was like maybe I should just hang it up, call it quits, but I saw myself watching the soccer from home and watching the boys play and I just couldn’t keep still. Watching UB going through its rough period was rough as well because I’m the leader of the team. I helped the guys get through those tough periods. It was tough sitting on the sidelines and watching them go through more tough periods. I was yearning to get back on the pitch,” Jemison said.
It took him a year and a half to get his confidence back for him to return to the field.
“The doctor who did the surgery, Winston Philips, wasn’t convinced that I could have done the things that I’m doing now. He was not sure if I should be able to do that. After he said that, I knew that I had to do extra work in order to get back. I spent more time in the gym. When I started to come back, UB training had started so I would still wake up at 5 a.m. to go to training and hit the gym while they were training,” said Jemison.
The hard work paid off for him as in late 2021, he returned to playing soccer when he suited up for UB when they went on the road to play Johnson University in Kissimmee, Florida.
Jemison started his second straight game for the senior men’s national team on Monday. His confidence is back along with his mental toughness. His advice for those who might have suffered a similar injury is to keep fighting through it although it will be tough.