|Uplifting: Kayode lifts the V-League trophy for his club, Ha Noi T&T in 2011. This is the first title the Nigerian won since he arrived in Viet Nam seven years ago. — VNS Photo Tien Thanh
by Tien Thanh
Samson Kayode has played football in Viet Nam for seven years, won a title with Ha Noi T&T, and was named best foreign player in 2011.
He has also been viewed as one of the best foreign strikers in the V-League during the past five years.
Kayode, a 25-year-old Nigerian striker, arrived here in 2006 when he was 18 years old to develop his career. His move to Viet Nam has proven to be a turning point in his life.
"I arrived in Viet Nam in 2006 for the first time and decided to play football here because I saw this as a good place to play football and a place that could offer me opportunities," Kayode said.
At the time Kayode arrived, domestic football had been flourishing as businesses poured large amounts of money into football to spend on foreign stars, and made the local league a promising land for foreign players, who mostly came from Africa and South America.
Kayode is part of a large influx of foreign players who flocked here to take advantage of lucrative opportunities in the booming V-League, where foreign players easily became big hitters in Vietnamese football clubs due to their superior strength and speed.
"I had a link to come to Viet Nam and I made up my mind. And when I came here, I knew that I would be successful," he recalled.
As a young player and novice in the V-League, it was not easy for Kayode to earn a place in a club, and he had to initially play for the First Division's Quang Ninh Coal.
The footballer, just 19 then, quickly showed he had the talent to become a top striker by scoring 20 goals in 22 appearances for the northeastern football club within two seasons.
His scoring ability caught the interest of V-League club Dong Thap, which purchased his contract in 2009. Kayode quickly became a household name in Dong Thap, as he was known as a scoring machine for the Mekong Delta club, with 49 goals in 43 appearances, and named best foreign player of the 2011.
Then, the only thing Kayode needed to complete his illustrious career in Viet Nam was a V-League title, and that goal came true when in the same year, he joined Ha Noi T&T who won their second V-League trophy in August.
Kayode is one of the more noticeable success stories among dozens of foreign players in the V-League, following a large influx of foreign players who came to Viet Nam during the league's booming, and overspending, period.
Among those players signed on were Kesley Alves, Antonio Carlos, Helio de Silva, Jose Emilio Almeida, and Rogerio Machad from South America, and Philani Kubehka from Africa, just to name a few who arrived having gained experience in league football in their home countries. Kayode, however, was a complete novice to league football, as well as the V-League.
All of those players, including Kayode, found a second home here, and some married local women while others expressed the intention of settling in Viet Nam with local partners in the future.
After seven years of living and playing football in the V-League, it's not all about money and football, but the kindness and hospitality Kayode feels from those Vietnamese people who were behind his decision to move here.
Kayode was granted Vietnamese citizenship in November.
"I have no regret over developing my career here. I feel safe and at home in Viet Nam. The only thing I can do is to put all my efforts, strength and professionalism into football," said Kayode.
"It's great to play here. I face a lot of challenges. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am not , but that is all part of the game.
"Whenever I have any problems, I have people around me to talk to and discuss them with. I love this country and its people, and they love me, too. I have been here quite a long time and understand Vietnamese and the local people. I feel at home here, which is why I applied to become a Vietnamese citizen," he said.
Playing in Viet Nam also changed Kayode's life, and the life of his family in Africa, where he has become better-known in his hometown.
"I have a lot of people in Nigeria who support me and follow my game in Viet Nam. They often go online to see how we play and win," said Kayode.
"I also support my family a lot by sending money back home."
Kayode's family was very happy when they visited him in 2011 for the first time, and came back again last year to see how Kayode was playing and living. — VNS