One of the names on everyone’s lips at the moment in the early stages of the NPL Victoria season is Elvis Kamsoba.
With his backflipping goal celebrations Kamsoba is all about putting on a show. His speed and determination to win the ball in every contest has made him an instant hit with Knights fans.
Kamsoba was born in the African country of Burundi, where his family ultimately had to flee from in the face of a long standing civil war.
Coming to Australia it was through football where the young player blossomed, his standout performances in South Australia ultimately leading to him gaining the attention of the Knights coaching staff.
He follows a proud tradition of players from the African continent that have played for the Melbourne Knights. So what better time than now to have a look back at some of the most significant of those past players.
The first player from Africa to wear the Knights shirt was back in 1989, when the Knights brought Francis Awaritefe to Australia from England where he was playing non League football. Though born in England he spent much of his childhood in the homeland of his heritage, Nigeria. Awartiefe was an instant success, with the striker scoring 10 goals in his debut season. He would ultimately play 98 games for the Knights, scoring a total of 43 goals and playing in two losing NSL Grand Finals before a controversial move to our rivals South Melbourne. He would continue to have successful career post Knights, eventually joining an exclusive club of players to score 100 national league goals. And of course since his retirement he has become a prominent face as a football media pundit.
Another African player to make a mark at the Knights was Ghanaian youth international Ransford Banini. He was a small but stocky defender who through his brave performances became a crowd favourite at Somers St. Banini played a total of 94 games and scored 3 goals for the Knights over the course of 5 seasons. After his time at the Knights Banini would disappear from football, leaving fans wondering what happened to the Ghanaian. Those questions were answered years later when he re-emerged in a news article in the local newspaper as a member of an African dance troupe.
Finally there was Angolan international Toto Da Costa who came to the club in the 2000-01 NSL season from playing football in the Netherlands. He was an exciting player to watch, very quick and technically gifted. He was part of a 3 man strike force in his debut season for the club, sitting alongside Joel Porter and Adrian Cervinski. It was a devastating trio that scored 36 goals between each other. Da Costa would spend two seasons at the club, where the Knights made the finals on both occasions. He played 47 games and scored 22 goals. He moved back to Europe, resuming his career in Dutch football after his Knights stint.
Will Kamsoba end up being remembered as these players? Only time will tell.