Birthday boy Mohamed Kallon has been creating wonders, making history, and achieving greatness for himself and his country for over 20 years now. He has just completed his UEFA Pro-License in Italy, to become the first man from Sierra Leone to earn the top-level coaching qualification.
Apart from his latest coaching acquisition, the former Inter Milan and Monaco forward also boasts of coaching badges including A and B Licenses from CAF and US Soccer Federation.
Kallon, who turns 41 today, earned 35 caps for the Leone Stars, which he captained for seven years and scored 14 goals, a national record. He enjoyed a 20-year career, donning the colours of 17 clubs including spells at Inter Milan, Monaco and his own club FC Kallon in Freetown.
His club career highlight was the 2001-2002 season during his time at Inter Milan, scoring nine goals in 29 games, and finishing the season as his club's second top goal-scorer. His only silverware came in 2005 when he aided Saudi Arabia side Al-Ittihad to win the 2005 AFC Champions League title, where he won the tournament's golden boot, becoming the first Sierra Leonean to set that mark. He retired in 2016.
Kallon has established a permanent legacy in Sierra Leone with the formation of his own club, FC Kallon. This has created career opportunities for not only footballers but also innumerable jobs for die-hand fans who handle security, catering and marketing. They finished second in the 2019 Sierra Leone Premier League and has represented Sierra Leone in African interclub competitions.
With the voice of a legend, Kallon spoke to CAFOnline.com about his football journey both as player and coach as well as a club owner.
CAFOnline.com: How did you start your football journey?
Mohamed Kallon: I started playing in the streets of Freetown for fun after school just like every other child then. I played for my school team at primary level, and few years later I was promoted to join the secondary squad 'Old Edwardians", the school's first division side where I enjoyed a number of privileges as a young player who was scoring goals. Until I got the opportunity to go to Lebanon and join Al-Tadamon Sour in 1994.
You were 14-year-old and still schooling when you signed for Al-Tadamon Sour. What put you ahead of other players then?
Yes, I was in form two but was yearning to showcase my talent at the bigger stage since the opportunity back then to play abroad was very rare. Offers were mainly from Sweden, so when I got the nod to play in Lebanon when some of my friends were already on trials in Sweden, I said to myself it's my time to excel. I accepted the offer which made me later move and play in Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, France, Saudi Arabia, Greece, United Arab Emirates, China and India.
A regular goal scorer, what was your drive?
I'm ambitious to always accomplish my dreams. The reason I do persevere to succeed is because I know "hard-work brings success". Moreover, I came from a football loving family. My elder brothers Musa and Kemokai Kallon were very admirable players. They usually advised me to do more and each time I watched them play I was super-motivated to train harder, and when in the stadium to play in a way that supporters will cheer me up. Scoring at every match to win became my prime target.
Why are you called "Wonder Boy"?
I scored against Congo in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in 1995, and from that match the name "Wonder Boy" emerged. We defeated Congo 2-0, and "Africa Soccer" magazine had a the banner headline "Wonder Boy". Since then that name has stuck.
Why did you retire when many thought you were still fit to play?
I had an age-long injury which I had managed to suppress for my fans and the love of the game. In China, India and even when I played against Sao Tome & Principe in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers in Freetown it hurt me much. So, I thought 2016 was the right time for me to retire and focus on transforming young players, developing my club, amateur football and grassroots coaches in my country.
What moment do you consider as most disappointing in your career?
None At all. I don't think I have any regrets because I'm a 'work-believe to achieve' type of person and deem everyone I have worked with or come across as a motivation.
Why "Kallon Group of Companies"?
As a less privileged child from Kenema, Eastern Region of Sierra Leone, that struggled to survive some thirty years ago, I do feel the pain of the less-privileged. I also wanted to find a sustainable way to give-back to my nation by way of showing appreciation to the children of all those who supported me to become the person I am today. So, while I was based abroad, I established the "Kallon Group of Companies" which comprise of recording studio, radio station, a football academy, and sports shops.
With the UEFA Pro-License, what's next?
For six years I have been on a long but very successful coaching journey, I appreciate God Almighty, and special thanks go to my wife and children, my elder Brother Musa, the entire Kallon family and everyone for supporting me this far. My focus now is to be with my family and prepare myself to answer calls from potential clubs, while aiming to continue to give back to my country, inspire others and to enroll for a higher non-coaching degree.