Soccer players in general are one of the most hardworking athletes in the world. Most train internationally and even get called up from academies, but follow their dreams and know how long the journey can be. Ivorian Footballer Salomon Kalou talks about his life growing up and living up to his dream of playing professional soccer.
What was it growing up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast?
it was great because I didn’t need much to be happy. I grew up around eight sisters and two brothers. They help me understand that sharing is caring. Our dad was a school teacher and my mom was staying at home.
How was the lifestyle like and who is the role model?
Thierry a Henry and my big brother Bonaventure were my role models. Bonaventure was one of the best soccer player in Ivory Coast so growing up it was my motivation.
What drives you to play soccer?
Soccer was in our blood. My dad was a soccer player before he became a teacher. My brother carried the legacy so that drive me to do better.
What high school did you go to and how did you know that you were good in soccer?
I went to the Jean Marc Guillou Academie in Abidjan, Ivory Coast . I know I was good at football because my dad told me so i believed him. He was a great striker himself.
You have such a big family in your life. How did you manage to spend time with them while playing soccer?
I didn’t get to spend a lot time with my family because of the soccer tournament. I was always away to play and travel, but the little time I got to spend with them was always wonderful. They make me appreciate little things.
When you were call up to play for Feyenoord and how did it help you in your development as a players?
At 15 we went with my soccer team for the first time in (nantes) France for a tournament. That’s where Feyenoord saw me play and I finished with the MVP of the tournament. Right after they took me in and brought me to the Netherlands. That help me to develop as a player and as a person as well because I had to become my own man at this young age.
What are some difficulties of playing as a striker and winger?
It’s two different positions. Winger you are on the side of the pitch making the run and action. The striker is movement in front of the goal and finish the winger action. Both are very difficult positions to play, but they get a lot of credit in the team always when the team wins.
How did you speak English and French fluently?
In Ivory Coast they speak french in school. I had to learn English and Dutch when i first moved in the Netherlands.
When did you score your first goal in a professional game and how did you feeling playing your first official soccer game?
Oh yeah I scored my first pro goal with feyenoord, I can’t explain what i felt that day. It was a huge feeling. I got a call from my family and friends back in Ivory Coast and they were all proud of me.
What was the experience like playing in an English league? What was difficult for you making the transition to Chelsea?
Playing for Chelsea was special. You can’t have bigger play for Coach Jose Mourinho and Chelsea at that time. I learn a lot from him and from my teammate like Drogba , Terry , Lampard and Essien. I won the most prestigious cup in soccer (the champions league) with Chelsea.
It was a wonderful transition, i stay for six years and played over 150 games while scoring over 60 goals. It was a dream come true. I always dream to play in the premiere league. In sport there is not better feeling than make your dream a reality.
How do you train yourself mentally and physically? How much effort do you take in nutrition?
I always remember what my dad told me always was “hard work pays off, mentally was easy” because my family motivated me. I wanted them to have a great life so when I get tired and can’t physically, I push myself by thinking one more for the family. I eat pretty much everything because I train everyday and I don’t get any problems with my nutrition.
What are you doing now in Berlin?
I’m playing for Hertha Berlin a German team in the Bundesliga. It’s a great team and Berlin is a wonderful city. Our home ground is the Olympic stadium of Berlin which got a capacity of 80,000 people where the legendary Jess Owen won all the gold medal. He got his status in front of our stadium. That’s history right there and a motivation every time I drive there for a home game.
Who is the best soccer player in the world right now?
Lionel Messi is the best player in the world right now, but you got to give respect to all of them because its hard to be a pro athlete and be on top for over 10 years since there is a lot of competition.
What are your goals for the future?
I still have three years left here in Berlin. In the future I would love to play in the MLS in America. It’s an interesting league and getting better and stronger every year. I also want continue to do my social work through my foundation (kalou foundation) sport and educate kids. I believe education is the future for Africa.