It’s been six seasons since Columbus Crew SC fans last saw Julius James take the field for the Black & Gold at MAPFRE Stadium. Even though the defender stepped away from Major League Soccer, he didn’t stop playing the game of soccer. Since leaving MLS, James has made stops across the United Soccer League (the United States’ second division in soccer), the North American Soccer League (also a second division league) and the National Premier Soccer League (considered to be the fourth division).
The 34-year-old defender has played for a number of teams since leaving Crew SC following the 2012 season but found his way to FC Motown of the NPSL in 2018, where he anchors a defense that has conceded just five goals this year. This stellar defense is one of the primary reasons why the New Jersey-based club will play Miami FC 2 in the NPSL National Championship on Saturday.
Ahead of the championship game, Massive Report caught up with the former Black & Gold defender.
“We try to communicate well, and we try to stay compact,” James said. “The guys that I play around, they keep their minds and their eyes open. We all have respect for each other and what we can contribute to the team.”
James relishes the role of teacher with his NPSL squad and is “having a lot of fun” each and every day. He credits his faith in God and a great organizational structure to prolonging his career. The defender even decided to use his platform and give back to children is his native Trinidad and Tobago. Alongside other famous Soca Warrior soccer players, James established the Can Bou Play Foundation.
“We decided that we wanted to give back our time to the at risk kids in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “We go into the orphanages, elementary schools, high schools and football academies. What we do is try to mentor the kids into choosing soccer over negative influences around them.”
The program involves mentoring and education programs with an emphasis on sports. James and the other players often speak with the children involved and spread a positive message to those that the charity services. Often citing his own struggle, James shares a simple message with the kids: “We love you, we’ve made it. We’ve have come, we have struggled and we have made it.”
James enlisted the help of FC Motown and its fans to help organize an equipment drive to benefit the Can Bou Play Foundation. At the conclusion of the season, the defender will return to Trinidad and Tobago with gently used soccer boots and balls for the children.
In addition to being positive influences for at-risk youth, the Can Bou Play Foundation focuses on other difficult topics such as bullying, peer pressure, respect for women and inclusion of the differently abled. James is overjoyed with giving back and credits God for his success, saying that he “wouldn’t be in this position” without him.
Despite the positivity James has created in his life and the lives of others, the former Crew SC player remains troubled by the potential relocation of the Black & Gold to Austin, Texas. During his tenure in Columbus, the defender appeared 33 times, scoring one goal in two seasons with the club.
“MAPFRE Stadium is a monument of soccer in the United States,” he said. “How could there not be a professional team there? You can’t give up on the first soccer specific stadium in the United States, that’s part of history.”
With the fight raging on to keep Crew SC in Central Ohio, the former defender looks to do what he’s been doing with his foundation to those who are part of Save The Crew by spreading a positive message of hope to Black & Gold supporters.
“Don’t give up,” he said of the movement. “Keep pushing for what you love, keep supporting the boys, it’s a good team. Give your all until the dying end.”