Elvis Kamsoba celebrates with one of his trademark backflips Photo: Jaime Castaneda

Elvis Kamsoba has managed to silence the pre-season adverse conversations, with his on-field actions now generating talk of him being a fan favourite. 

Elvis Kamsoba has managed to silence the pre-season adverse conversations, with his on-field actions now generating talk of him being a fan favourite. 

Off the back of a quiet season for Melbourne Victory, with the team finishing bottom of the table for the first time in their A-League history, Kamsoba made the switch to the five-time Championship winners Sydney FC.

Some Sky Blues faithful didn’t shy away from verbalising their apprehension at Kamsoba’s signing originally. Now, as sensational as the backflips the exciting forward produces after his goal-scoring efforts, many Sydney FC followers have stunningly backtracked with online apologies and ‘27 Kamsoba jerseys recently being spotted in the stands. 

Having a breakout A-League season for his new side after only 15 matches due to injury, Kamsoba attributes his newly found confidence and success first and foremost to the coaching staff. 

“The coaching staff believes in me and my abilities…the coach and the boys around me, they make me feel like I’m in the right place and they make me feel like I’m at home,” he said speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum.  

The creative playmaker prompts special mention of Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceres contributing to the warm welcome at his new team and city of residence, after making the move from Melbourne. 

“Credit to them, they’ve been helping me on and off the field and they’ve helped me become the player (I am) today. The players around me make me actually a better player….playing around them and Ninko (Milos Ninkovic) pre-season, those players are very clever. Kosta (Barbarouses), Alfie (Adam Le Fondre) and Bobo (da Silva).”

Kamsoba, recovering from a knee injury sustained in round 16 against Melbourne City, admits there is pressure for starting spots in the attacking positions now that many are finding form after the side’s recent goal-scoring spree, with seven goals scored in their past two A-League matches. 

“The competition (for starting positions) is very stressful for the coaching staff I would assume…it has made me more hungry because I don’t want to sit on the bench. I’m working a lot harder,” he said

“Every chance I get, I’m going to come into the game and try and change the game…get a goal, an assist.”

There’s no doubt the Burundi-born striker has been one of Sydney FC’s most exciting playmakers thus far this season. When asked if this achievement is satisfying enough for him or if he still wants to wrack up the goal tally, his answer is frank. 

“I still want to wrack up the goals, I’m never satisfied with it. I constantly want to be better in every game that I am involved in.”

No stranger to success, Kamsoba was awarded the inaugural Mike Cockerill Award in 2018 whilst playing in the National Premier League for his efforts in the FFA Cup campaign, now renamed the Australian Cup, as a player for Avondale FC. 

The NPL side cemented its best place in the tournament to date before ironically being ousted from the competition by his current club in the quarter-finals. 

“I’m a player, even in NPL days, where my strength is assisting goals. I used to average 8 to 10 goals a season but averaged 20 assists a season. That’s where people saw what I was good at and what I was capable of doing.”

Knowing all too well the high expectations members and fans have of the club and understanding where the critics’ thinking lies, Kamsoba states that support from the fan base is important but acknowledges the pressure that comes with playing for a highly successful organisation such as Sydney FC. 

“We need support from them (the fans)…but expectations of the club are very high and we accept that winning trophies is a habit…in the past two to four years, they’ve won everything (locally)…top of the table, championships.”

Keeping things in perspective before shedding a lighter side, Kamsoba reveals that playing professional football was not originally his dream. When asked what his dream was, he reveals, “My dream was to live a better life…with my family because of where I grew up in the refugee camps…when I came here, the dream was to eat good food, get a regular job somewhere and enjoy life…and I became blest…look where I am now.”

A poignant yet sobering viewpoint, it’s fair to say the flamboyant forward is only in the early stages of well surpassing that dream, with his family following suit. 

Kamsoba’s younger brother, Pacifique Niyongabire, plays in the midfield for Perth Glory. When asked if the two have any friendly exchanges before a match or if they keep their distance, he says it’s strictly business. 

“We try to stay professional, we give each other some distance and then talk after the game…but obviously I would tell him…he’s my little brother, go as hard as you can, go and score goals…not that I want us to lose but it’s hard, he is my brother and I want him to do well.”

The younger sibling so far claims the bragging rights, with Kamsoba stating, “Every time I play against him, my team loses…when I play against him, he’s not my brother for 90 minutes.”

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When enquiring if the matriarch of the clan has a favourite A-League team, Kamsoba laughs it off saying, “Nah…my mother goes for whoever’s winning…she’d be happy to see us score a goal each.”

Interestingly it is also revealed that there are four other siblings in the family, two brothers, and two sisters, with a brother in the middle of Niyongabire and himself, Ibrahim Bigirimana, as the most talented footballer of the three but who opted instead for a career in real estate. 

Known for his personal flair as well as his football skills on the pitch, Kamsoba reveals that his backflip celebrations are taken just as seriously as the game itself. 

“Back in Africa…in the refugee camps, that’s where all the magic started. Over there you played football…and if you didn’t do backflips as a kid, we used to call you names. You had to learn, whether you liked it or not. It was very competitive, I tell you…even now, I can do them in my sleep.”

Finally, the question had to be asked if his namesake is after the other famous Elvis. 

“No, actually. Mum went to visit a friend who was pregnant (at the same time) in Burundi and the father of the family named his kid, Elvis…then mum said, ‘That’s nice… If the baby I’m having is a boy, he’s definitely going to be Elvis.’ “

A tough family life endured during the hardships of the Tanzanian refugee camps, Kamsoba continues, “Even now, Mum doesn’t know who Elvis Presley is.”

The number 27 concedes that he has trouble convincing new people he meets that Elvis is in fact his real name, including when he first met his current Sydney FC teammates. 

“It brings trouble…they look at me like, ‘What? Your name’s Elvis? C’mon man, tell us your actual name,” he recalls as one of the first conversations had at his new club. 

As it turns out, Elvis is his actual name and one that is generating much talk on the local football scene, similar to what the same name did amongst the music scene in the mid-1950s. 

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