An interview with upcoming United States football star Alfred Koroma
Football in the United States is gathering momentum, not just due to the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann as the coach of the national team in 2011, but also due to the marketability factor of the game. And it was inevitable for the United States to soon come under the influence of the most globalised sport in the world, considering the titanic size of the country.
Players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, who have gone on to play in some of the top leagues in the world, are indicative of how much the game has developed in the country. The progress that Klinsmann's men made in the World Cup of 2014 stands as a testimony to the fact that all the hard work that has gone into developing the game, is certainly paying off.
Many of the States' national team players ply their trade in countries such as Germany and England, making their skills and styles diverse and refined and this is one of the reasons why the country has come leaps and bounds in the game, emerging from the shadows of the impositions and subjugations of more popular sports such as American football, baseball, and basketball.
I caught up with a player who is tipped to be one of the future stars of the game in the United States – Alfred Koroma. The 22-year-old is someone who has made an impact for the USA Under 23s.
A striker by trade, Koroma has previously played for the Fluminense Under 20s side and the Internacional Under 20s side, apart from having a short stint at German club Eintracht Frankfurt too.
The pacy forward has represented the national side at the Under 17s to the Under 23s level, shining at all levels.
Q1. You were one of the best players for the United States in the Under 17s World Cup of 2011. How has that success helped you in your career so far?
A. Playing in the Under 17 World Cup and being able to do what I did in Mexico for my country was a big honor for me. And because of the performances I came up with and was showing, I was able to go and train with some big clubs the following year in Europe. Playing in tournaments like those is a measuring stick to see where your level is, when compared to the rest of the world.
Q2. You've played in many countries in the world, despite being quite young. How different are playing styles and conditions in different countries?
A. I'm very happy at being able to play in so many countries already and explore them, apart from being open to different cultures and their style of play. Playing in America, you get almost a bit of everything but most players lack a good first touch and the teams there are not tactically sound as well.
And one of the things that is stressed upon a lot in American soccer is working hard every day.
In Brazil, the style was very technical, really easy and fun for me. A lot of players are very relaxed in games and also in training. All the drills in training were emphasized on making you quicker on the ball and working on combining with the team-mates around you.
Q3. How is football in the United States evolving these days?
A. Football in the states has come a long way. Players aren't paid more money and the games are hard, which involve a lot of money but the way they play is better. The league is attracting better players from abroad, who are older and young.
Q4. Your journey as a footballer would not have been easy. What keeps you motivated to keep going?
A. I think things have been fine until the last two years. I have, to be honest, taken some steps backward. I am motivated every day because every morning I wake up with a burning desire and passion to make it to the highest level because I know I am capable of it.
Q5. How has football gained importance as a sport in the United States?
A. Football will be very important in America within the next ten years. The sport has garnered about the same attendance as the NBA around sometime last season and it will keep on improving as better players come in and get higher pay.
Soccer is the fastest growing franchise in America and it’s also attracting a lot of businessmen out there. You have basketball players like Magic Johnson owning clubs like LA Galaxy and Will Ferrel owning Los Angeles FC and this will help the sport a lot in the country.
And I think the one thing that I believe would really help soccer in America is if we host a World Cup in the next 30 years. I think that would break the barrier of soccer being equal or surpass the other major sports in the country.