It’s fair to say that the 2018/19 season will be one that lives long in the memory of Amadou Kassaraté. The London-born midfielder was looking for a return to full-time football having previously played in Scotland for Dumbarton and Stranraer. He turned to Greece for his shot at another professional deal.
What was meant to be a simple transition back into the full-time game turned out to roller-coaster ride of a season. From the moment the former Tottenham youngster stepped foot in Greece, there would never be a dull moment. From sharing a room with Franck Ribéry’s brother, to being refused a transfer, to helping his new side secure their first ever promotion to the Greek Football League.
Back to the beginning
Going back to his early days, Kassaraté had spells with Spurs and Welling United as a youngster before moving to Walton Casuals however his first chance in senior football would come in Scotland. As a 19-year-old, he secured a move to Scottish Championship side Dumbarton, making his debut for them in the League Cup. He would then join League One side Stranraer on loan, scoring twice in 13 appearances.
After his time north of the border in the 2016/17 season, the midfielder spent time back in England with non-league side Cheshunt before his chance to move to Greece came about.
After numerous moves fell through (as you’ll see below), Kassaraté joined third-tier side Thesprotos based in the city of Igoumenitsa in the north-west of the country.
He went on to play 15 times in the league for the club, scoring four times, as they finished second and made the promotion play-offs. Playing in both legs of their promotion final, the Senegal youth international helped his side secure a 3-0 win on aggregate and promotion.
On the field it was a great experience but that does not explain half the story…
That is where I’ll let the player himself carry on the story of a very eventful season. He’ll take us through his arrival in the country, signing a deal, being refused a transfer to a higher level and how the club’s adoring fans convinced him to stay and win promotion.
He also finishes with some words of advice to players who are looking for moves to countries like Greece and Cyprus.
On arriving in Greece
To be honest, when I took the plane to Greece I could have never imagined how complicated things would get before signing.
Initially, I went to a team called Apollon Larissa. The plan was to train for a week and play a game. I trained the day I arrived and got thrown into a game the next day. I played very well but did not receive any feedback. In the hotel I shared the same room with Frank Ribéry’s brother Steeven – he was also on trial. He was there for a week and had also received no updates so I kind of questioned it in my head [and thought] that there is a lack of organisation. Eventually, they did not offer me a deal, they said they already filled up their foreign player spots.
I went to four other teams up and down the country and was given other reasons such as budget, agent disputes, and clauses on contracts. An agent a friend put me in touch with then calls me for a trial with Thesprotos. After training once they swiftly tell me they don’t want to sign me as they thought I was a centre-back. I was really frustrated so I planned my route back to London and paid for my bus ticket to the airport the next day. That morning the director calls me to change his mind. I stayed for another few days and played very well in a friendly. That’s when they offered me a 1 year deal.
On being refused a transfer
I had to wait until one month into the season to play because of international clearance. From my debut I hit the ground running and played every game. I was consistent with my performances.
In January, a club in the higher league wanted to sign me. They contacted Thesprotos but they essentially refused to negotiate and gave a ridiculous price to buy me. In my whole football career, that was the most challenging moment. Throughout the whole time, they never considered my interest of playing at a highest level or communicated to me with respect. This was the winter break and I refused to go back until they let me go. I was ready to miss the rest of the season but luckily, my family and friends convinced me to be go back and pick the professional decision. It all worked out in the end and we secured Thesprotos’ first ever promotion.
On the fans
The fans were part of the reason I came back. Despite the issues in the background, they always showed me love. Every game they sung my name and they would stop me in the town to encourage and support me. I was speechless when they brought the Senegalese flag in the playoff semi-final. I repaid them the faith by scoring two goals. They are a very special set of fans with a lot of passion.
On getting paid on time
In terms of salary they always paid me on time. The problem I had with money was at the end of the season with my promotion bonus, which they did not pay me.
His advice to other English players looking to move abroa
For players heading to Greece or Cyprus, it’s very important to research the team and their history and try ask around for information. Some teams have a reputation for not looking after their players or paying their salary. Also representation is important. Some agents just see you as a pay check, hence why I was bouncing from team to team at the start. If they have your best interest at heart they will protect you and be there at your time of need.
I 100% recommend players to go and play abroad if there are a lack of opportunities in England. It was a great experience for me not just through football but learning a new language, culture and food. It forces you to grow up and be independent.