The Story of Korede Aiyegbusi: A Journeyman Pursuing His Football Dreams All Around the World

Korede Aiyegbusi has travelled the world to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional, making the British-Nigerian the best-known footballer you've never heard of.

Brought up near Highbury, a young Aiyegbusi dreamed of playing for Arsenal but ended up beginning his career in Major League Soccer, before taking in Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Iran.

A few die hard Football Manager fans may have come across the left-back but Aiyegbusi does not mind that he's a relative unknown in his homeland.

Before moving to America at 17 in an attempt to achieving his lifetime ambition of being paid to play, he had never been associated with any club in England.

Korede Aiyegbusi
"An opportunity did arise to come to West Ham when I was 12 or 13, but being an Arsenal fan, having been brought up pretty much outside Highbury in Barkway Court, I always wanted to play for them.

“West Ham told my mum about their interest after I’d played in a cup final ah that."

With no further interest coming from England, Aiyegbusi decided it was time to risk it all in an attempt to make his dreams a reality.

After careful consultation with his parents, he decided to head to America where he could both complete his studies and play football at the same time.

"The main reason I went out there was that I wanted to make it professional whereas my parents wanted me to get an education. My aunt – my mum’s sister - was living out in America, and she said I could go out there and get my school paid for, so that ticked a box for my parents. Then to get to the MLS, you go through university so that was the best way to reach the professional rankings."

Aiyegbusi thrived in America at North Carolina State University and Cray Clarets before having his reaching the promised land of Major League Soccer when he was picked up by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2010 draft, having previously had a trial at Burnley.

After two and a half years in MLS, Aiyegbusi finally got his wish to head back to Europe, closer to family and friends. He almost ended up back in England with Burnley, but eventually he accepted an opportunity in Finland at FC Haka.

“I was in America for a bit, but even before I signed I was always anxious about coming back to play in the UK. I had belief from some of the people around me that I could get a deal. I had a trial at Burnley, so I wanted to come back straight after university but the deal came up at Kansas. But after seven years in the US I wanted to come back to be close to family and allow friends to come watch my games.

"There was a team in Finland in the second tier who had just gone down and wanted to come back up but there was also interest from Brentford.

"I was advised to go to Finland and play a whole season out there and get my grounding in Europe. So I went there and did what I had to do, but unfortunately the people who took me out there left me there alone. The belief was I’d play there for a season and these guys would be working to get me a move somewhere else."

Thanks to his grounding in Europe, Aiyegbusi had the chance to spread his wings and he had no qualms about where he would spend the next stage of his career, ending up in Switzerland with Servette.

“After that I got into Servette thanks to an old team-mate from Kansas and played for half a season out there. I played there for six months but I had to play in 14 of the final 15 matches of the season in order to have my contract renewed automatically.

"I had a lot of backing from the sporting director and assistant manager, so everything was set up for me to stay there but due to an injury I didn’t meet the quota and at that point at Servette, (English manager) Kevin Cooper came in and they had a financial situation. So with a lot of good, young players they couldn’t justify signing me again and keeping extra people in the squad. I tried to stay and train there for a bit to convince them but due to their financial situation it wasn’t going to happen."

A spell in Germany's fourth tier followed but Aiyegbusi was keen to play at the highest level possible, so took up the chance to play for the ambitious AFC United in Sweden.

“I got a call asking me to go to Germany. It was in the fourth tier, it wasn’t something I really wanted to do but I didn’t know if I could get anything else so I just ended up signing and doing a season there. It wasn’t really the level I wanted to play, so after the one season I had to leave and got a contract to come to Sweden in 2015."

At the end of the Swedish season, Aiyegbusi set off on an adventure that few footballers could relate to, as he sought a club in Asia, ending up in the Iranian league.

Many footballers would never have considered the offer to go to Iran, but instead Aiyegbusi seized it and headed straight to the country to join FC Mashad.

"At that time I was 27 and I wanted to go to Asia and have a different experience and take care of myself. I told an agent to look around Asia and the Middle East and the first thing that came up was Iran. I was a bit sceptical about Iran but I didn’t want to judge it too much on the information I could get from the media, I wanted to go out and see it myself and they were very keen on having me out there to see it.

“At the beginning when I told my family alarm bells started ringing as they thought of everything in the media, such as terrorism and it not being a safe place to be. My parents told me to enjoy my life and in order to know, you have to experience it by going out there yourself; you can hear other people’s words and be scared by them but it may not by true.

"They just wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the move and wanted me to take care of myself. When I was out there I realised that it was completely unlike the preconceptions I had about it. Their culture is a bit different and they’re a bit stricter of certain things, but you just have to go out about your own business and not step on other people’s toes and respect you’re in their country. Once you show them respect, they respect you more."

A struggle to get the money he was owed ended Aiyegbusi's time in Iran, which showed him a completely new part of the world, as he realised it would be a redundant exercise to stay despite the on field success he had enjoyed.

"Upon going there the key thing is to make sure you get your salary and we didn’t get that for many reasons: various issues with the agency that took us over there and other complications so that was a big negative. For the whole time we were there we were fighting for our money.

"We realised that despite fighting for our money, we needed to keep playing as otherwise it might affect our careers. For the five months we kept getting told “we’ll pay you tomorrow”, “we’ll pay you next week” and it never happened, but for myself I kept my head down and tried to play the best I can play, get to the end of the season and then fight my case with Fifa.

There were too many lies while we were there; when we arrived they were in the relegation zone, and we ended up keeping them up in the last game, which we had to win 2-0 and we did that in the last few minutes. We stayed up but still didn’t get our money."

Due to his experiences around the world, Aiyegbusi offers advice to footballers who get in touch with him to discuss what to look out for when moving abroad, as the British-Nigerian has now heard a lot of the agents talk a lot of nonsense about potential moves.

Now back in Sweden, Aiyegbusi is four games away from helping AFC United, who boast ex-Arsenal defender Jernade Meade and ex-Manchester City midfielder Abdul Razak in their squad, into the top-flight, as they currently sit second in the Superettan with four games to go.

Whatever the next step is for the British-Nigerian defender, he doesn't mind that you've never heard of him, but he knows he's become an unlikely success around the world and that's good enough for the man living out his dream.

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