Technical, fast and with great physical strength on the field; funny, generous, and sociable off-field: these are the main strengths of Yayah Kallon, a Sierra Leonean football player of Genoa CFC, who was born in 2001 and who is standing out at the start of the of Serie A season. Among the sporting events that NRW pointed out, in fact, there was also the premier Italian football league in which this young promise plays. Having fled his country at a very young age, today Yayah Kallon is realising the dream of many of his peers: to become a professional football player.
Fleeing to Italy at the age of 14 not to become a baby soldier
The story of Y. K. is certainly not all a bed of roses. In Sierra Leone in the morning, he used to go to school and in the afternoon, he would play football with his friends on the streets.
At the age of 14, however, his family asked him to flee from Africa because in Sierra Leone there was a terrorist group that kidnapped children to turn them into soldiers and his parents were afraid that this could happen to him too
“I didn’t want to, but I understood that the best thing for my future was to leave,” he said. It took him eight months to cross Africa, with many difficulties because he didn’t know the road or the language but, nevertheless, he managed to put together a group of boys from Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mali to try to reach Italy together. He spent several hours in a luggage compartment with four other people breathing air through some holes, but, as many have already told, the hardest part of the journey comes in Libya.
He was forced to clean houses and cars or to be a bricklayer to raise the 1000 dinars needed to travel to Italy. “Sometimes I got paid, sometimes not, but when I collected the money I needed I was robbed so I had to start all over again,” he explained to the microphones of the Rossoblu (Genoa CFC) channel. In the end, he managed to leave for Italy: the trip to Lampedusa lasts eight hours, nothing compared to what he had seen in the previous months. Arriving in Italy, he immediately called his mother who thought he was dead, not having heard from him since his departure from Sierra Leone. From Sicily, after a short stop in Piedmont, he arrived in Genoa. And there his life began to change.
The rise of Yayah Kallon
Arriving in Genoa, Yayah Kallon began to play in some local five-a-side football tournaments and in 2018, thanks to a friend, he had a trial with the Ligurian club Virtus Entella which, unfortunately, turned him down. Immediately afterwards he was invited to participate in a family game in Genoa and at the end of the first half he had already scored two goals. The Grifone Company didn’t waste any time and immediately took action to sign him, but due to some bureaucracy issues it was forced to do a deal with Savona, a Serie D team that welcomed Kallon. In 2019 he finally joins Genoa, who added him to their Primavera team. Although the beginning was not the best due to an injury, Kallon proved to be one of the best players of the Primavera championship and the following 2020/21 season definitively imposed himself at youth football level: 27 appearances and 10 goals that brought him to the attention of the first team coach.
Serie A and the first goal of Kallon in the Coppa Italia
On May 22, 2021, on the last day of the 2020/2021 season, Kallon made his debut in Serie A at the beginning of the second half of the match Genoa vs Cagliari, won 1-0 by the Genoans. At the end of that game the Rossoblu trainer Ballardini declared: “I saw him arrive and I got angry because he is a very talented boy, but he was only pointed out to me at the end of the season”.
At the beginning of the 2021/2022 season, in fact, Kallon definitively joined the main team and not as a bit player
It was August 13, 2021, when the Sierra Leonean scored his first goal in the Coppa Italia, leading Genoa to qualify for the next round, winning 3-2 against Perugia. The goal also had a strong symbolic value because a few days earlier Gino Strada, the founder of Emergency, had died and Kallon dedicated it to him, by saying: “Unfortunately Friday was the day Gino Strada left us. A great man, the whole world must say thanks to him. I dedicate my winning goal against Perugia to him, even if I am perfectly aware that it will not be enough to thank a doctor who has done so much for my country, where he built important hospitals, treating hundreds of thousands of people.”
Yayah Kallon’s journey has just begun and, if it is true that “well begun is half done”, a great year and an excellent career await him, demonstrating once again that, despite the many difficulties of life, with drive, hunger, and determination you can get anywhere. You may even get to step onto the biggest football fields of the world, after having played barefoot on the street.
Translated by Francesca Pirovano