Fri, Dec

Keston Julien (second from left) and his FC Sheriff Tiraspol teammates upon their return from Croatia after qualifying for the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League at the expense of Dinamo Zagreb.

To play in the UEFA Champions League will be a dream come true when it eventually happens for Keston Julien.

Julien’s club, FC Sheriff Tiraspol was placed in Group D alongside giants Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donestk during yesterday’s much-anticipated draw for the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League. Sheriff is the first club from Moldova to have qualified for the Champions League.

A left-back with three senior national team caps, Julien joins a select list of Trinidad and Tobago footballers whose clubs would have played in the Champions League, the most recent being T&T captain Khaleem Hyland with Genk in 2011-2012. Also included in the list is Manchester United Champions League-winning striker Dwight Yorke, Glasgow Rangers defender Marvin Andrews and Russell Latapy (Porto).

“We playing Champions League group stage now and it’s a wonderful feeling, “Julien related in a TTFA media interview. “Every footballer dreams of playing in the Champions League at some point in their life and I (am) just 22 years old and it happen at a young age in my life.”

Julien hopes to use the Champions League to showcase his talent.

“I hope I can play in the group stage and really show what I can do,” he said.

Julien said to have reached the Champions League was one of the ambitions of his club.

“Our goal was to qualify for the Champions League group. People think we couldn’t do it, but we got some new players and they motivated us,” Julien said. “Coach always said he would take us to the Champions League.”

Admittedly once a “fat fella,” Julien’s football path began with Gasparillo Youths, before he transferred to W Connection at youth level, earning a spot on the national youth team. He credits former national defender Brian Williams with being influential in his development.

Julien said his life changed when he scored a solo goal for the T&T Under-17s against Honduras at CONCACAF level. An agent spotted him and took him to Europe where, as an 18-year-old, he made his Fortuna Liga debut in Slovakia for AS Trencín against Slovan Bratislava on February 25, 2017. He joined his current team, FC Sheriff Tiraspol in 2020.

“Our league is not big. Our club is the biggest club in Moldova,” said Julien, who explained that while the ten-team Moldovan league might not be the most difficult in Europe, matches for Tiraspol are difficult because everyone tries to beat the big team.

Sheriff consists of players drawn from Europe, South America and Africa, with Julien being the lone Caribbean footballer. Julien has his own competition for his spot.

“I also have in my position a good left-back. He is from Brazil. It also challenges me to become a better player and fight for my spot on the team,” he said.

“Qualifying for the Champions League really opens up a lot of doors for the club,” he added. “People could recognise us more because we are a really top club (in Moldova). I think we have 18 training pitches. We have an indoor field. A really, really professional club,” he said.

SOURCE: T&T Express