Greece, Egypt, Northern Cyprus & Jordan: The remarkable career of JJ Adjeman-Pamboe

At the age of 31, some players may be thinking it is time for a change. Maybe they will be thinking of trying something new as they head into the final years of their career. That wouldn’t be possible for JJ. He’s already seen the world playing football. It’d be hard to find something more different than playing where the winger plays right now.

“I currently play in Jordan, I’m probably the first and only Englishman to ever play over here,” he says. “I try to sell that to companies but they are not interested in marketing me. All our games are televised in the Arab countries so they would have a huge marketing audience if they sponsored me. “

Jordan may seem like an unusual destination for an English footballer but it is just one of many for Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe, to give his full name. Born in London to a Ghanaian family, he uprooted alongside his family and moved to Maryland at the age of seven. He recalls not being initially thrilled with the change.

“When I left England, at the time I I could have tried out for academies so I was bitter. When I moved to America it was hard to find football. Unlike London, the American kids played American football in the streets and basketball. I soon followed and that became my thing to do.”

Eventually, JJ would make a high school friend who also enjoyed soccer and the pair would spend hours playing wherever they could, rekindling the Londoner’s love for the sport. His love soon turned to a talent and he spent four years playing college soccer, first for Saint Francis University and then George Mason University.

His talent had developed over in the States so much that he was now considered an MLS prospect and invited to the 2009 Superdraft where MLS teams select from the best college prospects. In the end, the whole event went from ecstasy to agony.

“It was surreal to get drafted, to be honest, I had no idea I was even considered,” he says. “I was in my dorm room watching the draft and the ticker after the first round ended on ESPN. I saw my name go across and my heart skipped a beat. The few people around me were excited. Next thing I knew my phone just blew up, luckily I was able to get a call from the Colorado Rapids manager Gary Smith to tell me he drafted me with his first pick. My phone eventually crashed because everyone was texting and calling at the same time!

“I was highly disappointed to then not get offered a contract because it came down to the wire. On the last day they had to turn in the team sheet to MLS, they called me in and told me. It was heartbreak but I had come this far so I knew there was a contract out there for me.”

In action in America for Tampa Bay Rowdies

Disappointed not to have been offered a contract by the Rapids but buoyed by his first experience of training with a professional side, the winger turned to his English heritage to secure himself his next move.

“My agent at the time David Ross Williamson – he’s the best I’ve ever had – showed a friend in Finland my video. It was practically a done deal after that. The contract was peanuts but I was a pro, chasing my dreams for bigger and better.

“I have a UK passport so playing abroad had always been an option for David and I if MLS didn’t work. He also brought me offers from USL but I was not interested.”

Joining second-division side FC Viikingit for the second half of the 2019 season, it didn’t take long for the London-born winger to start having a big impact of professional football. He scored four goals in nine appearances, of which only three were starts. It was a great start to his career and the following year he would return to the States to play for Tampa Bay Rowdies.

After a season of regular action with the Rowdies, he returned to the country of his birth to play football, fifteen years on from when he last did. However, his time back in England wouldn’t last long as he made just one appearance for Barnet, as a substitute in a 4-2 win over Lincoln City in League Two. His name is now one for the statisticians and quizmasters in north London.

The following year he would arrive in Greece and it would see him settle down for the first time in several years. He first joined second-tier side Agrotikos Asteras, soon nailing down a regular spot in the starting lineup. Here he would play some of his best football but again, there would be heartbreak.

“Greece was my biggest footballing lesson ever,” he says. “I learned about the business, shady politics, bad contracts and many more things in football that were new to me. I could write a book on my Greek adventure.

“During my time there, I had a great coach who believed in me like nothing else. I felt on top of the world and wore the number 10 Jersey. The league started late October and by January I had Superleague teams watching me. They came in with offers and another offer from Bulgaria all rejected by my club who were not even paying me.

“I thought the move was on and my dreams of Champions League and Europa league were going to come true with the transfer. I was broken hearted more than not signing with Colorado.

“Valuable lessons were learned there.”

His third year in Greece was with division rivals Panachaiki where he again was a regular and his spell in the country brought 41 appearances and five goals. However, he was now starting to get itchy feet and headed off to the continent of his ancestors to continue his football dream. After a move to Bulgaria fell through, following his club in Greece demanding a fee, he ended up trialing at Egyptian Premier League side El Qanah.

“I was on trial in Egypt for like two months before signing so my head was all over the place. I would see players coming in all the time for trials while I was still unsigned.”

Eventually though, he would sign for the club and made a great start. Remarkably making his debut on Christmas Day, he scored on his debut and went on to score three more times that season. Despite his impressive form, his side were relegated at the end of the season as they narrowly missed out on safety. JJ would keep his spot in the Premier Division the following campaign though as he signed for El Geish. He kept up his good form in the country, scoring five times in the 2014/15 season with the club.

“The Egyptian Premier is a very high standard and I survived three years with each transfer window passing with someone coming in to try and take my position but they couldn’t. It was literally survival,” he recalls.

The following two years were spent playing in the top flight of Northern Cyprus football for Yalova and Doğan Türk Birliği where he scored eleven goals in what he calls a high standard league, even though each side is only allowed three professionals. He even cheered on the Northern Cyprus side at the CONIFA World Cup, storming the pitch to celebrate their semi-final victory as they went on to finish as runners-up in London.

All smiles in training for Al-Salt

Now playing in the seventh country of his career, Jordan has been a success so far for the 31-year-old. Playing for Al-Salt, he has been part of one of a great stories of the season so far, with his side currently sitting in third place despite it being their first ever campaign in the top flight. The league is currently undertaking its winter break but Al-Salt really have thrown a cat among the pigeons this year.

During his time away from playing, JJ regularly returns to his birthplace where he runs a coaching company called 360 Elite that also offers advice on soccer scholarships in the US and how to work with agents. It’s something he has thoroughly enjoyed.

“I’ve trained kids from Crystal Palace, Brighton, Fulham, and Nike Academies. I created the company after a year after tearing my ACL. The kids brought back joy for me in football where I hated the game and practically retired. I’ll always be thankful to the kids I trained and the other clients I trained that helped me.”

He’s been across the world but if he manages to finish in the top two this season with Al-Salt and secure qualification to Asia’s continental competitions, it may well be his best achievement so far. As well as helping future stars in London to reach their dreams, of course.

You can Kwame on Facebook and Instagram.

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