Like many others, Kairou Amoustapha has had a 2020 to remember. His reasons may differ from others, but the forward (who turned 19 on New Year’s Day) found himself at the beginning of the year more than 4,000 miles away from his current location.
“I never thought about it and never saw it coming, it was lucky,” Amoustapha said via translator. Amoustapha had previously been playing for ASN de Nigelec in his home country of Niger, and has appeared at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels of the Menas, including the youth versions of the African Cup of Nations and in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.
The challenge of getting Amoustapha to Loudoun could be described as lengthy, in a word. Acquired by the team in February, Amoustapha was unable to acquire a Visa until the summer, and was in frequent contact with the team through Team Administration Director Clariens Cheridieu between the time the USL Championship suspended its season in March and Amoustapha’s arrival in July, working out on his own in Niger.
Amoustapha’s journey to America was a tale in and of itself. His “itinerary”:
- Started in Niger, taking a 24-hour bus trip to southwestern Nigeria,
- Sailing from Nigeria west towards Lome (a travel portion of Togo),
- Finding a five-plus hour connecting flight east, landing in Ethiopia,
- Flying an additional 13 hours to land at Dulles Airport,
- Undertaking the self-quarantine period of 14 days, before making his debut August 2 against Hartford Athletic.
Yet despite a season where the team won one game, and in which Amoustapha was unable to play or train with the team until August, the attacker’s three goals were one off the team golden boot pace. He was one of four players to record an assist with Loudoun, and led the team in created chances (16), all while acclimating to his new country and pro league.
“Well, if you really want something, it doesn’t matter what you have to adapt to, because you adapt to the players,” Amoustapha said about playing in the USL. “It’s a big challenge for me and I’m still adapting.”
After going through the MLS quarantine process, Amoustapha began training with D.C. United earlier in October (along with midfielder Massimo Ferrin and goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre), but it is just another thing that Amoustapha is prepared to handle.
“There’s not a lot that now that I (don’t) mind, because being here, even though I don’t know the language, players around (are) helping me understand, translating and there’s nothing like I don’t like at all, I’m so happy to be here.”
(Special thanks to Clariens Cheridieu for providing translation for our conversation.)