Elvis Kamsoba has endured hardship in the past, but lives life with a smile on his face and now he dreams of representing Australia one day.
The 22-year-old spent 11 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania before he and his family migrated to Australia in 2008, growing up in Adelaide.
Fast forward over 10 years later and Kamsoba has played six A-League games for Melbourne Victory after earning his stripes in the NPL.
Kamsoba describes himself a person who doesn’t take life seriously, and always wears a smile on his face.
He’s now reaching for the stars and has aspirations of playing for the Socceroos, but he never had these dreams as a youngster.
“When I was a kid, I had no aspiration of being a professional footballer,” Kamsoba told FTBL.
“When you’re in a refugee camp, you just want to survive and have dinner. When you get to Australia, you just want to enjoy life.
“I’ve experienced a bit of racism in my time here and some of the kids don’t know the hardship of being there and coming here. When I see kids like that, I just tell them ‘If you were in my situation, you wouldn’t be laughing. If you came from where I came from, you’d never laugh’.
“I tell people ‘Just be happy, you have a good life and other kids are dying every day, so you’re here. You should just be proud.’ I look back, I came from a very bad place, so right now when I’m here, there’s no reason for me to be sad. You must smile all the time. They say if you smile more, you live longer, so I hope that’s the case.
“Life goes on and on, you want to grow, then you start to see things and people tell you things and becoming a professional footballer was something I could see potentially happening.”
He added he wanted to wear green and gold at international level despite already receiving a call from the Burundi national team.
“Burundi has actually contacted me a few times, I’ve told them I’m waiting for an opportunity with Australia because I want to play for Australia and that’s my aim at this moment,” he revealed.
“I would like to play for Burundi, but for now my ambition is to play for the Australian team.”
Victory players of South Sudanese descent Thomas Deng and Kenny Athiu have helped Kamsoba settle in at AAMI Park.
Deng was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1997 before migrating to Adelaide with his family in 2003.
Deng made his Socceroos debut last year alongside South Sudanese refugee and friend Awer Mabil, against Kuwait in UAE.
The 21-year-old Victory defender was aware of the stigma surrounding Melbourne’s African community and added Athiu, Kamsoba, Mabil and himself all had the same goal.
“Our goal is to show the wider community that there are people who are trying to do good with their lives,” Deng told FTBL. “Every time we represent the green and gold or I put on a Melbourne Victory jersey, I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing it for my family and my community. I’ll always want to represent them.
“I think our stories resonate with each other in a way. We all fought hard to get where we are, we’ve been through different roads and journeys. Coming up to this platform isn’t easy for anyone, so when you do make it, it’s an honour.
“I think those tough situations define who you are and all the things you’ve been through make you work even harder, so you can get a better life for yourself. When I was younger I used to watch Adelaide United and Awer was playing at the time.
“He was a role model for me and someone I looked up to and someone I wanted to play with one day, so it makes it easier for Elvis, Kenny and I to watch him play. Even coming into the group to settle in, Elvis feels a bit more comfortable having us around.”
Deng also remembers playing against Kamsoba in the African Nations Cup in Adelaide at Burton Park Football Centre.
“I’ve known Elvis for a few years now, we go way back to the Adelaide days playing against each other in epic African tournaments,” he said.
“I’ve always known him to be a very good player who’s energetic and a top guy.
“He’s a very easy-going guy, he never complains about everything and always willing to work hard for the team.”
Kamsoba is enjoying the journey with Victory and his next goal was to cement a starting spot in Kevin Muscat’s team.
He recalls making his debut in Victory’s 2-0 loss to the Reds in early January as a surreal feeling.
“It was an awesome feeling, but on the same day, I lost my grandma, so I was hoping I’d get a goal for her and also that we’d win,” Kamsoba said.
“It didn’t happen, but that’s life, so I was happy for my debut, but sad for my grandma. It was a dream come true playing in front of my family and friends who I grew up with, it was something really special to me.
“It’s like a dream come true. Coming from Africa, I didn’t expect to be here right now and as I was growing up here. I was getting told I had a chance to make it professionally.
“It’s something I just put everything towards. I was obviously at school as well, but my aim was to make it as a professional footballer, whether it’s here or outside the country.
“I knew Dengy earlier, back in Adelaide. Coming to Melbourne and Tommy is in the team and so is Kenny, they’re like my brothers.
“When I arrived, it made me feel more comfortable, if I make a mistake, they back me up and it’s a great thing for them to be at the club.”
Kamsoba’s teenage brother, Pacifique Niyongabire, also plays for Adelaide United. The man who proudly wears the number 24 jersey added he was settling in well at Victory after a successful season at Avondale FC.
“The A-League is a step up, the philosophy, the grounds and the players are better, so everything is better,” Kamsoba added.
“My (small) size can present different challenges, but when I have the ball at my feet. I have no problems, I’m running. I’ve been working on my strength in the gym.
“I feel like I can thrive as a small player on the pitch. I’ve been throwing it around since I was born. You have to work and that’s why I’m here.”