Moses Makinde is reflecting on his transatlantic football career so far. The 25-year-old is currently playing in Sweden, the fifth different country his has plied his trade in. It’s taken him a long way from his humble beginnings with Bexley & District Junior Football League side Birchmere.
“I began playing football around the age of five or six,” says Makinde. “I was playing for a local club called Birchmere FC. My older brother and I were given the opportunity to join Charlton Athletic.”
But the defender and his sibling never got the chance to turn out for the Addicks as his footballing career was set to take an entirely different path over 3,500 miles away.
“I moved to America when I was young. I was nine-years-old when my family made the move. My dad had a job opportunity that took us to Baltimore, Maryland and due to the move, we weren’t able to play for Charlton but I was lucky enough to find a good set up in Baltimore. I was able to play with some of the best players in the state which helped me continue to progress as a player.”
The long distance move was not enough for Makinde to stop enjoying his football and he carried the progress he had made back in London across the Atlantic into his teenage years and further.
“I was fortunate enough to train with Sporting Kansas City as well play for North Carolina FC U23s and train with their first team,” he says. “I was able to see the level and standard up close and I will say the standard in America is quite high and continues to improve.
“But my sights were set on playing in Europe. Having a European passport gave me an advantage that a lot of my peers did not have.”
His first move closer to his birthplace came in 2013 at the age of 20, over a decade since his family had made the move to the States. He joined National League South side Whitehawk, who are based in Brighton, but after making the bench just twice all season, he was on the move again, this time to continental Europe.
“My move to Germany came through an old teammate,” he says about his 2014 transfer to fourth-tier side Auerbach. “He put me in contact with an agent that was working with Auerbach, they brought me in for a trial and I signed shortly after.”There was a bit of a culture shock, Auerbach is a really small city. But the players and management did a great job helping out and making it easy to settle in. I was also fortunate enough to have my cousin there too so it was nice to have someone familiar around.”
Makinde’s cousin is no other than Korede Aiyegbusi, a well-travelled Englishman himself. The 29-year-old defender has played in six different countries including Iran and Kazakhstan and played for Auerbach at the same time.
Makinde made eleven appearances for the German side in the 2014/15 season and still has very fond memories of the time he spent with his country there.
“Besides America, I will say Germany has been my favourite country to live in. The Germans are very efficient at everything and I really enjoyed my time in their country.”
After a season, the defender found himself in limbo after leaving Auerbach. Without a club for several months, it was a period in his career which he found very challenging and once a move finally did materialise, things didn’t get much easier.
“I went on a few trials in Europe and in the States after Auerbach. Negotiations broke down and things didn’t go as I would’ve liked. I was without a club for about five months so when my agent at the time presented the opportunity to sign for a club in Romania I took the deal. I was sceptical at first but I knew if I wanted to keep playing I had to make the move.”
Metalul Reșița were the second division Romanian club Makinde joined and despite making eleven starts, it was not a season he looks back on with happiness. The club was only formed in 2010 and have spent the majority of their time playing in the second tier but despite that, the club was troubled throughout the English-born defender’s stay. They spent the 2015/16 season under the grip of substantial financial problems and finished the season on minus 10 points following several point deductions.
“I had a hard time settling in Romania,” he says. “It was the most challenging time of my career. Our club was not performing well and we were not getting paid. It made things a lot harder.
“Even though I had a rough time, I learned a lot about myself and the experience made me stronger.”
The club was eventually spared relegation due to the plight of one of their rivals and were renamed CS Sportul Snagov, not that affected Makinde as had left the club at the end of the season.
He then spent some time out of football before returning the game earlier this year, to join Swedish side Syrianska in the country’s third tier. The club is relative fallen giants, having spent three seasons in the top flight between 2011 and 2013 and were newly relegated to the third tier.
Now partway through the season, Makinde has made seven appearances as his new side battle to be promoted back to the second tier at the first time of asking.
They currently lie in third in the league and will have to force their way into the top two to have any chance of promotion this year. The club play at the
Södertälje Fotbollsarena which is barely a decade old but does not get close to filling its 6,400 seat capacity right now.
“I’m enjoying it here in Sweden,” he says. “It’s been very easy to adapt to the Swedish way of life. I came here in mid-April so I’m thankful I’ve been able to experience the nice weather opposed to the brutal winter they have earlier in the year!”
Now settled in Sweden, Makinde can assess the different football he has experienced in each new country he has traveled to.
“Every country has a different style of play. I will say the German style of play is very tactical, the players are technical and physical but tactics are instilled and followed flawlessly. Romania was more so technical and the pace of the game is a little slower. As for Swedish football, it’s very end to end. A lot of teams go forward every opportunity they can.
“It’s not always easy to adapt to the style of play but I’ve been lucky to have managers and systems that I fit into. Even though the style of play may be different, the managers allow me to do what I’m good at and play according to my strengths.”
Although he has already experienced so many styles, that doesn’t mean he isn’t keen to experience any more and the 25-year-old already has a plan in mind for the future.
“I would love to get into the Asian market and play out there, if possible. It’s a little difficult if you don’t have a big name or an Oceanic passport. I also want to play back in the States – I would love to have friends and family at my games.
“My goal is to play at the highest level possible so I’ll continue to work hard and perform well. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a move through great performances.”