For Daniel Osafo-Badu, also known as Dan Badu, moving to Iceland started as a footballing decision but has now shaped a vast part of his life. Badu spent a large part of his footballing education with Welling United (head here to read about him featuring for the The Wings in the Kent Senior Cup as a 20-year-old) and reached the first team before leaving to head to university.
In 2010, then 23, he decided to try something new and joined Icelandic second-tier side Njarðvík before finishing the season in the country’s fourth-tier with Magni. That move would start a ten year spell in country which has yet to come to an end with Badu having now built a life and family on the nordic nation.
In his third year in the country he joined BÍ/Bolungarvík in the second-tier and the club would form the basis of his time in Iceland ever since. For the 2016 season, following their relegation the year before, the club would be renamed Knattspyrnudeild Vestra or Vestri, as they are commonly know, and last year the club finally secured their return back to the second-tier.
It means in the defensive midfielder’s ten-year spell in the country he has played in the fourth, third and second-tiers. Vestri’s promotion last year was secured alongside compatriots Hammed Lawal, London-born goalkeeper Brentton Muhammed, who has represented Antingua & Barbuda internationally, and former Manchester United midfielder Josh Signey. Oh and Vestri play at the absolutely stunning Torfnesvöllur stadium, it really has to be seen to be believed.
During his time in Iceland, he has racked up 169 appearances, scoring six goals and throughout his on-off spell with Vestri, he has been vice-captain, captain and also player/manager at times.
Ahead of his 11th season in Iceland, I caught up with Dan to hear a bit more about his football career so far and whether he wants to complete the Icelandic football set and play in every division in the country.
English Players Abroad: Can you tell me a bit about your football career before you made the move to Iceland in 2010?
Dan Osafo-Badu: Always moving teams! By the age of 18 I was at Welling United in the Conference South and had never played more than two seasons at the same club. Towards the end of the season there I played a couple first team games and did quite well. The next season I hoped I could get more chances but the manager left to become Tony Pulis’s assistant at Stoke City and the new manager wanted to bring in his own players so I left. And while I still wanted to play football I was bouncing from team to team whilst attending uni.
EPA: You’ve been playing in the country for almost ten years now, did you ever expect to be in the country for this long when you made the move? Presumably you’ve made a life for yourself out there now?
DB: Not at all. From the first year I just wanted to do as well as I could and after each season I wanted to do better than the last. Nine years later it’s still the same! I have a family now, life with young kids changes things a lot. I really enjoy it, miss sleeping though!
EPA: You’ve played nearly 170 games during your time in Iceland across the fourth to second tiers, do you still hope of playing in the Úrvalsdeild one day?
DB: Playing in the Pepsi [the company sponsors the top flight] for the sake of it is not a goal of mine. Vestri could be in that league if we finish in the top 2 so you could say I hope but right now I’m more focused on being ready for the first league game in May it would be silly to think further than that.
EPA: Last year was a great season for Vestri earning promotion, does that rank as one of your best memories in Icelandic football?
DB: Yes we came so close the year before so to do it on the last day at home was a great feeling. I was actually part of the team that was relegated in 2015 so it’s felt like closing a long chapter of a book.
EPA: Finally, would you recommend for other English players to come play in Iceland?
DB: I don’t think Iceland or Icelandic football is for everyone, there is so much to consider. However, if I would rewind to 2010 and had a choice to do it again I 100% would.
Be sure to follow Dan on Instagram @danbadu14.