Lechia Gdansk player Kenny Saief on moving to Poland and citizenship issues

Kenny Saief, the new Lechia Gdansk player, made his debut last week when Lechia was defeated 2-0 against Lech Poznan. I had the opportunity to talk with the US international player about his interesting football career and his thoughts about Lechia Gdansk and Poland.

A young player but has already managed to play in serious games and not only for the youth team, today we will ask a couple of questions to Kenny Saief and learn about his plans, relocation and atmosphere in the new team in Poland.

the player had difficult periods in his career both in club soccer and for the national team, we will try to find out what has changed with the relocation to Poland.

Kenny, you’ve arrived in Poland from Anderlecht, and you already had a Polish teammate there, Łukasz Teodorczyk. Have you talked with him before your move?

Yes, I have talked with Teo, and he recommended to me to play in Poland. He also spoke about the manager, Piotr Stokowiec. I talked with coach Stokowiec previously, and I think we liked each other. We see things almost the same.

What are your first impressions from Poland?

In the beginning, when I heard about the interest from Poland, I was full of doubts. But since I landed in Gdańsk, I am delighted. People are so nice, the city is beautiful, there is a lot to do here. Ronnie Rosenthal, who played for Liverpool and Tottenham, said: “Listen, it’s a beautiful place. Tourists go rather to the south of Europe, to Spain, but it is also very beautiful here”. Just a little cold so far.

You are lucky. This winter is one of the warmest in recent years. What about your teammates?

Everyone received me very well. I can’t complain.

Is it true that the first thing you asked after landing in Gdańsk was where the Sony shop was?

Well, no, somebody misled you. The first thing I asked was the gym address. My fiancee stayed in Israel, so I don’t go out anywhere. In my situation, I focus 1000% on football. I want nothing more than to get back to the level I was previously. Football, football, and football again. I enjoy playing PlayStation in my spare time.

I understand that you focus on football so much that you only play FIFA on PS.

I don’t play FIFA much, Fortnite is my game. It requires strategy and thinking.

You arrived only two weeks ago, but you didn’t get too many chances to play yet.

I entered against Lech for the last 15 minutes of the match. It’s much easier when you start a match from the beginning. If you look at the statistical record of my performance, you’ll see that I didn’t stand still for a second, I was always on the move. When we were coming out with the counterattack, I made two quick sprints. Maybe I shouldn’t be able to pull myself forward like that? Maybe I was trying too hard? With my experience, maybe I should have held the ball, played backward?

You are an offensive player, and here you had to defend the result.

I was put on to help maintain a goalless tie, I failed and I take responsibility. I have to work even harder to make the next match better.

In Gent, you had the best time in your career.

I played there for 3.5 years, a great time for me and a historical one for the club. We always advanced well in European competitions. We won the Belgian championship and reached third place twice. I also played every game at Anderlecht for the first 1.5 years. Then it got complicated. The manager who brought me back was fired. I am in Lechia to rebuild myself.

You could have played in the Israeli national team in Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Poland.

I went through all levels in the Israeli junior national football team, and played two friendly matches for the senior team, but I couldn’t get along with coach Elisha Levy, even though things were going very well in Belgium. I was called up for the matches, but was only sitting on the bench.

Did it relate to the fact that you are a Druze? The national team coaches prior to Andi Herzog haven’t played non-Jewish players much.

No, I don’t think so. What happened on the pitch decided.

You decided to play for the USA, as you were born there.

The interest was very strong from the other side of the big pond. In the end, it was an easy decision. The US has a very good national team, participating in major events, apart from the World Cup. In Israel, I didn’t get what I wanted, and in 2017 I decided to play for the USA.

There are times when you regret this step?

I don’t regret anything in my life. Now I have a hard time. I am being criticized, that’s life, also for a football player. I can handle this. I’ve been playing under great pressure for five years. When I was in Gent or Anderlecht, even a draw made the fans furious, not to mention losing. The goal has always been the championship title. Football without pressure does not make sense, so I can handle the expectations that are here in Gdansk.

Do you feel more American or Israeli?

I moved to Israel from the USA at the age of three. My mother lives in Israel. When I come back to her, I feel at home. I grew up there, I lived there for a long time, I have an Israeli mentality even though I have not lived in the country for a long time.

Do you think Lechia can be the first step before returning to bigger teams?

If I didn’t believe that we could help each other – I wouldn’t come here. 

More and more foreign players are coming to Poland and we hope the level of the league will rise and will please us with games.

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