Advertisement

How some lesser-known African footballers are making a career around the world

From BBC - November 14, 2017

African footballers play all over the world, with only the elite few making it into the top leagues of Europe.

As part of this year's BBC African Footballer of the Year award, BBC Sport scoured the world to find some of the continent's most adventurous travellers.

KENNETH KEREWI - Nigeria and Kiwi FC (Samoa)

In his early thirties, Kenneth Kerewi had an unfulfilled dream - to play Champions League football.

Playing semi-professionally in Nigeria and working for a local church, the intrepid Nigerian considered distance to be no barrier so travelled nearly 20,000 kilometres to get to the top of his world.

Having studied the globe for somewhere to achieve his goal, Kerewi eventually found an opening in Samoa.

"The whole thing started with my desire to play in a continental Champions League but the only place open for such a chance was the Oceania Champions League," the 35-year-old told BBC Sport.

"Going through the clubs playing, I found Kiwi FC from Samoa as one of the participating teams. So I got in talks with the Kiwi FC president who was keen on wanting foreign players to come and play."

The president would not pay for Kerewi's flight - meaning the Nigerian missed Kiwi FC's 2016 Champions League campaign but he arrived in June 2016 nonetheless, after finally sourcing some funds.

Earlier this year, Kerewi's dreams came true - at the unheralded Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Tonga.

It was not for Kiwi FC but while on loan with Utulei Youth, a team in American Samoa whose Oceania Champions League qualifier against Lupe Ole Soaga attracted just 100 spectators.

Nonetheless, Kerewi was living the dream - scoring twice as he played the full 90 minutes.

"It was such a great feeling. I can never forget scoring on my continental Champions League debut - and not just scoring but scoring the most fantastic goal of the first stage of the OFC Champions League. I scored direct from a corner."

He describes the South Pacific island as a "paradise" which he has no plans to leave and now he can boast Champions League football on his CV - and not just during one campaign.

For next season's Champions League, reigning Samoan title winners Lupe Ole Soaga - the team against whom he scored - have asked him to play for them.

ARISTIDE BANCE - Burkina Faso and Al Masry (Egypt)

Burkina Faso international Aristide Bance is African football's version of Marco Polo.

Since breaking through at Ivorian club Stade d'Abidjan in 2000, the 33-year-old has played at 20 different clubs - incorporating spells in (big breath!) Burkina Faso, Belgium, Ukraine, Germany, Dubai, Qatar, Turkey, Finland, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Latvia and, latterly, Egypt.

In north Africa however, where he is playing for Al Masry, one of African football's cult heroes is encountering a new experience.

"It's a shame that matches here are played behind closed doors at the moment - for security reasons," he explained. "It would be really super if the supporters could come back into the stadiums."

Since the Port Said disaster of 2012 - which was then followed by a deadly stampede in 2015 - most football matches in Egypt have taken place without fans.

Meanwhile, Bance's tips for bedding into a new club appear easy to follow.

MEMORY PHIRI - Zambia and South Western Oklahoma University (United States)

SALOGO BABA SOUMAILA - Burkina Faso and Londrina (Brazil)

Advertisement

Continue reading at BBC »