It is with great pleasure that I can bring you a Q&A with Sam Malsom. Despite being only 31, Sam has played in various countries across the world since first tasting life as an English player abroad more than ten years ago.
Born in Devon, Malsom played for local sides Torquay United and Plymouth Argyle before heading on trials across the world in 2008. He secured a deal in the Faroe Islands Premier League where he would spend two years with B36 Tórshavn playing for the club during a successful period where they twice competed in the Europa League qualifiers.
The following years he would add two more countries to the growing list of countries he had played in after a spell in the Icelandic top-flight with Þróttur Reykjavík and in Sweden with Motala.
After that he returned to England where he finally got his chance to play in the EFL for the original Hereford United side who were in League Two at the time.
Then following a spell in the National League with Dorchester Town among others, the forward added Cyprus to his CV after spending time with several second-tier sides in the country.
The last few years have seen the 31-year-old settle back in Iceland where he has been playing for Hamar who play at the picturesque Grýluvöllur Hveragerði stadium near some of the country’s famous natural springs. Playing in the fourth-tier, 2019 was Malsom’s third season with Hamar and his goal record in the league now stands at a very impressive 27 goals in 37 games. His performances helped his side make the promotion playoffs this season where they were unfortunately knocked out.
I got the chance to ask Sam a few questions a few months back about his career so far. Enjoy his responses below, it’s quite some journey so far!
English Players Abroad: I saw that before you made your first permanent move abroad to the Faroe Islands, you had trials in Latvia and Brunei. Did you always have an ambition of playing abroad and were you willing to play anywhere in the world?
Sam Malsom: I was open to all options after I left Plymouth Argyle, to be fair. I set a team record by scoring 29 goals in 24 youth and reserve games but didn’t get the opportunity to make a first team appearance. Plymouth were playing in the Championship at the time and pushing for the playoffs into the Premier League. Ian Holloway was the manager and he felt it was best for me to go and find first team football. When I left Plymouth, I flew to Malaysia and spent time with DPMM, then had trials in Latvia and back to UK with Brighton and Aldershot – before signing with B36 Torshavn in Faroe Island Premier League. So going abroad kind of just happened but the opportunity to play in UEFA Europa League was definitely a factor for leaving English football.
EPA: You’ve played a lot of football in Scandinavia and the surrounding areas. What is it that keeps on drawing you back to the region?
SM: I’ve been all around the world playing football and I am very grateful that I’ve been able to make a career out of the game and get paid for kicking a football around while travelling! I’ve experienced some amazing times and some pretty low points in my career due to injury but every club I’ve been to in Scandinavia has always treated me really well. The people here have a good mentality. They are very compassionate people who always try to make you feel welcome. So that’s the main reason I keep coming back to clubs in Scandinavia.
EPA: Your first move abroad came in the Faroe Islands, did you know much about the country and its football before you made the move?
SM: To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect when I first went to the Faroes. I researched the club I was going to online before I flew out and knew that they were playing in Europa League and that’s about it.
EPA: It must have been a great experience playing in Europe, does it still rate as a career highlight?
SM: Yeah it was a fantastic experience. I had been playing youth and reserve games for Plymouth with not many fans or much atmosphere and then to play in front of 20,000+ fans in a European game at the Brondby Stadium was amazing. My dad and uncle flew out for the game so it was a great time. I think the highlights of my career would definitely be playing in UEFA Europa League against Brondby IF, playing against Cypriot giants Anorthosis & AEK Larnaca in the Cypriot Cup which again was a great atmosphere, and being part of the Dorchester team that knocked my previous club, Plymouth Argyle out of the FA Cup.
EPA: You’ve also played in Cyprus, how did that happen and how did it differ from your time in the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Sweden?
SM: I have mixed feelings about playing in Cyprus. There were some great times and the weather and lifestyle was amazing but the football out there is very corrupt. I played in the Second Division and scored 8 goals in 10 games before the Christmas break in my first season. I was the league’s top goal scorer from right wing. Some big Cypriot First Division clubs were interested in me but the Cypriot agent I was in contact with was the brother of the manager of the club I was playing for and they were pushing for the coach to get a move to a first division club so they would not let me go. But after the season finished I got a move to Omonia Aradepou which was exciting but injured ankle ligaments in pre-season which halted progress. I ended up missing the first two months of the league campaign. We had a tough start to the season and the club were not honouring players contracts so I decided to leave in the end along with the other foreign players.
EPA: What is the best thing about playing abroad and would you recommend a move abroad to other Englishmen?
SM: I think the best thing about playing abroad is adapting to different styles of play. Every country has its own unique style and pace. I also think it’s great to travel, meet new people who become friends for life and try to fit into their culture and way of living. You also become a much more rounded player both physically, mentally, technically and tactically by playing abroad through playing experience and I am always learning different ways to improve both as a player and as a person. So yes I would definitely recommend it to other English players if they not getting a chance back home and want to progress in their professional careers.
EPA: Have you picked up any other languages during your travels?
SM: I know a few words in Cypriot Greek and Icelandic but I am not fluent. Everywhere I have played abroad everyone speaks English to me so difficult to pick up the language. I also run my own business education company as well as coach and play football so difficult to find the time to take language classes.
EPA: With your various moves abroad, have you always lived alone or have you had family travel with you? Is it always easy to find somewhere to live after each move?
SM: Yeah, I have always lived alone. All the clubs I have played for have always provided an apartment or helped me find one easily. I had a girlfriend who came over from the UK and lived with me for a short while when I played in Iceland the first time and when I played in Cyprus but apart from that family hasn’t travelled abroad with me apart from coming over for holidays.
EPA: Finally, what are you up to now and what does the future hold for you?
SM: At the moment I am back playing in Iceland for Hamar FC. It’s a good club with great people, really good training facilities and a fantastic bunch of lads that all get on really well. We have a great team spirit and character with some good young talent that have the potential to have a career in the footballing world. In the pre-season we went on a training tour to Barcelona, Spain which was a great experience and a lot of fun. I have scored 29 goals in 33 games [at time of interview] from either wing so my ambition is to keep scoring goals and help the team in any way I can to gain promotion. We’re currently joint top of the league. I also coach the kids in the Hamar youth set-up and am currently in the process of re- launching my online business.
So right now, I just want to keep enjoying my football and continue to score goals while working hard for the team. Although I am 31 now and have more experience I still feel like I am in my early 20’s physically. Throughout my career I have always made a conscious effort to do extra training, like gym work, recovery after training sessions and games, lots of stretching and learnt about nutrition so I am feeling good and hope to keep playing for many more years to come! Who knows what the future holds. Maybe Pep Guardiola may need some extra firepower if Sterling gets injured for Man City and I’ll get a move to the Prem, haha!
Thanks again to Sam for the interview. You can find out more about his football career and see some of his goals by clicking here.