Ten years after his family arrived in Australia from a Tanzanian refugee camp, Avondale FC’s Elvis Kamsoba is hoping that tonight’s FFA Cup clash with Marconi will provide a springboard into the A-League.
The diminutive Kamsoba, who scored within 60 seconds of play commencing in Avondale’s win over Pascoe Vale in the latest round of NPL Victorian action, was born in Burundi; but fled the war-torn nation with his family to a Tanzanian refugee camp when he was only a toddler.
Spending his formative years in that refugee camp, the 21-year-old recalls the makeshift football games that he and his fellow children took part in within the sanctuary of the camp’s boundaries.
These were games played not in an attempt to emulate heroes from the television or conducted in a manner many young Australian’s would recognise but were instead simply played for the love of football.
“We just played street football,” Kamsoba recalled.
“You don’t even think about playing anywhere else, because you’re just in a refugee camp.
“I didn’t watch tv or soccer at all, I just used to pay to go and watch moves; Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and fighting movies, that was it. I wasn’t even old enough to watch that, I had to sneak in and try to watch!
“We just mainly played street football and, in order to play street football, you have to play a bunch of kids altogether.
“Sometimes it would be 20 v 20 and you learn how to dribble in those tight areas.”
Kamsoba eventually arrived as an asylum seeker in Adelaide with his family in 2008 and it wasn’t long before he found himself drawn to the round ball once again, albeit this time in a more structured setting.
“We came here as refugees, moved to Australia in 2008,” Kamsoba said
“I started playing Soccer in 2009, just one year after we got here, for an amateur team called Elizabeth Grove.
“I played there for two seasons and from there I went to Croydon Kings for U15s. Then I was lucky enough to get a first-team role at Playford, their club was next to my house.
“They thought I was good and gave me a chance to play first-team, I played one season there and then a Croatian team got me, the Raiders, Adelaide Raiders. They got me and I played two years there.
“I had a few trials with Adelaide United, and things went well but the coach left and I was unsure what to do after that, so I went back to play for Croydon Kings.
“I came to Melbourne Knights in 2017 to look for more opportunities to play in the A-League because I think if I can perform here [NPL Victoria] I can have a go in the A-League.”
Despite Kamsoba’s rise from refugee camp to the national stage of the FFA Cup, his Australian footballing odyssey was nearly over before it’s first game: the pint-sized attacker almost dismissed as too small by the first coach that saw him.
“First time I went there [Elizabeth Grove] for U13s he [Kamsoba’s junior coach] looked at me and said ‘are you really 13?’,” Kamsoba recalled with a laugh.
“I’m like ‘yeah’ and got him to let me play.
“The boys we played against were just tall and when I played he was like ‘Damn you can play next week!’
“And from there the amateur league was just too easy for me, I was scoring 9, 10 goals a game.”
Moving from the Knights to Avondale prior to the 2018 season Kamsoba has adjusted well to life as an Avenger, scoring five goals from his position on the wing and providing an important spark to an Avondale side more renown for its grittiness in defence than attacking flair.
The dynamo says that he’s enjoying his football since making the move to the Reggio Calabria club and that he’s hoping that tonight’s FFA Cup fixture can mark the start of something special.
“I enjoy it,” Kamsoba said of life at Avondale
“I’ve settled in well.
“We’ve got big players around the field, so it makes everything easier for a player when you have good players behind you and in front of you. You feel comfortable and you feel as though you’re in any game at any time.”
“The Cup’s going to be special to me. Even though I’m not 100% fit for the game, mentally I’m 100% fit for it, so I’ll try to do whatever I can to play as part of the team and win as part of the team so we can go to the next round.
“Hopefully there’ll be coaches watching and they’ll see the potential some of us have and give us a chance on the next stage.”