Revitalised RXA Red Star have returned to Sunday League football following a self-imposed three-year break.
The club was formed in 2003 under the name Red Star Harehills by manager Jabhar Khan, who has been in charge of the team since the start. Twelve years later Khan now leads the RXA Red Star revolution which for more reason than one is a task close to his heart.
Khan’s Leeds-based RXA fitness sponsor the team – hence the name change – with RXA standing for Rafael Xavier Adam.
The first two names are the names of Khan’s twin boys and then Adam in his nephew. It’s little wonder then that Khan is so determined for the club to succeed. The side was one of the best teams in the league prior to their break, and the aim is to try and reach those heights once again.
“I founded the team over 10 years ago now and we were a well-established team before our break,” said Khan. “Now we have come back with brand new players this summer to try and get back to the top. We had a lot going on in 2012 when we stopped. A lot of the players were very busy.
“When many of the players joined the team they were very young, many were only 18/19 years-old when we started but then they got to their mid-20s and started having families.
“I had twin boys myself, so we just thought we’ll leave it at that. Then three years later we set it up to see if there was any interest and we’ve started again really with new young players.”
Prior to their break in 2012, Red Star were one of the most successful teams in the league, winning several league and cup titles in the space of eight years. Khan explained: “We were in Division five of the Leeds Sunday which was when the league was really big with lots of teams and we won that really easily.
“Then we went into the Leeds Combination and we managed to secure the Premier League title by a point, along with winning a fair few cups along the way as well.
“Following a season in the Saturday League where we didn’t do too well, we decided it was time to take a break and allow myself and everyone else some time off.”
Re-starting the club this summer has meant that Khan has had to fully re-build his squad with the majority of the previous side being attached to other clubs now. Red Star had a number of top quality on their books before their break, including former Barnsley striker Curtis Bernard who enjoyed four seasons at Red Star. However, there have been a few players who have remained loyal to Red Star.
Khan reasoned: “I’d say about 95 per cent of the previous players aren’t there any more so we’ve really started from scratch again, as many of them are a lot older now and in the break they’ve joined new teams so we’ve recruited again and I put together a brand new team.
“Over the years we’ve had quite a few of our players move away to join semi-professional teams but now we have an excellent diversity of players from all different cultures and religions. My captain Jermaine Jones has been here since he was 16, he didn’t play as much a few years ago but now he is the captain now and an important player, along with Shane Anderson and Leon Gentles.
“I used to play when we first started up but now I’m just the manager which is still a tough job. It’s just me running the team, we used to have a few qualified coaches when we were going a few years ago and we used to take it quite seriously then. But this is a trial season so we’re just seeing how it goes .”
Merely keeping a side going is an achievement in the current climate. The Saturday-run West Yorkshire League – the highest level of grassroots football in the area – has seen 10 teams fold since the start of the season.
Fifteen teams are soldiering on in the two-tier Leeds Sunday League, but Khan is optimistic about his side’s future.
Indeed, the biggest problem may be his side’s Roundhay Park pitch.
“Our pitch is terrible, honestly the worst pitch in the country I think!” laughed Khan.
“Sunday football is on a bit of a downward spiral. There are fewer teams in the leagues now and, therefore, less people wanting to turn up and play, When we first started there were so many teams and now it’s just 12 teams across two divisions which is crazy. Many players would just rather stay in and play Fifa or go on a night out than play now compared to five years ago, but I think the are players out there, it is just a matter of finding them. I think we’re okay.
“We’re going to give it this season, see how it goes in the Sunday League and then maybe go into the Leeds Combination in the future. We’ve got some brilliant players but we can’t seem to find the perfect solution at the moment.
“The players are basically all new to the side, so they don’t really know each other yet as we have players from all sorts of backgrounds so it’s going to take a while for me to get the squad that I want. Hopefully I will be able to find the perfect players and get us challenging back for honours.”
Anyone wising to get involved with RXA Red Star can contact Jabhar on J4bbs@hotmail.com. They train indoors at Notre Dame College on Wednesday evenings.
Formed: 2003 (as Red Star Harehills)
Division: Leeds Sunday League Terry Pears Premier
Home Ground: Roundhay Park
Manager: Jabhar Khan
Captain: Jermaine Jones
Record Goalscorer: Izak Heywood (115 goals)