25-year old Justin Dhillon is a US-born and bred Kenyan professional footballer who recently moved to second-tier side San Antonio from MLS side Seattle Sounders.
Born to a Kenyan father and US mother, Dhillon hopes to feature for Harambee Stars and guide the National team to the World Cup in the near future. Mozzart Sport caught up with him for an exclusive One on One Interview.
You are relatively unknown in Kenya. How was your early upbringing and when did you start playing football?
Yes, I am relatively unknown in Kenya. However, my family has strong ties and that is where that passion for nationalism comes from. My upbringing in the game was strongly influenced by my father (Mombasa native) - he taught me just about everything I know from a very young age. I started playing pretty much since I could walk and haven’t looked back since.
How was your experience at Seattle Sounders and why did you move to San Antonio? Many would say this is a step-down, your take?
My experience with Seattle was unforgettable and something I will forever cherish. To be a part of a Championship winning team that displays success year after year taught me so much about what being a champion truly means. I think I grew immensely as a person and player in that organization.
Ultimately my decision to move to San Antonio was because I felt that the club goals and philosophies aligned heavily with mine and I knew that it would allow me to battle for additional trophies and at the same time, expand myself individually as a player.
I am looking forward to continuing on in the development of my craft and have a more leadership role using my career experiences.
Tell us about your career journey, from when you started to now.
I would argue my career truly began as a member of the LA Galaxy’s academy team. Being the leading scorer of the nation’s best academy team ultimately lead me to sign my first professional contract with the club.
In my first year as a professional, I lead the reserve team in goals and gained some crucial experience. My second year, however, was mostly sidelined with injuries ultimately leading to my transfer to Seattle. Stepping into Seattle I began my time with their reserve team, again leading the team in goals and scoring the fastest goal in league history. After a couple of months in the reserve team setting, I would ultimately move up to the first team and go on to win MLS Cup in my first season with the Sounders.
In my second season with the club we competed in the Champion’s League and despite a massive world-wide halt in sports due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, managed to reach MLS Cup finals again only to fall short against Columbus Crew. I now am about to embark on a new journey with a new club in San Antonio FC and hoping to build on the success sustained in Seattle.
Who would you say has played a big role so far in your career?
I believe first and foremost my family has played the biggest role in my career. Beginning with the massive sacrifices made by my parents who gave up so much time and resources to help me pursue my dreams. Along with that my older brother set the standard of playing level and growing up I always chased him and competed to try and be as good as him. Being blessed with people like that in my corner has taught me so much and held me accountable for being my best. Along with that, I have been blessed to work with some amazing coaches growing up, many of which have left lasting impacts on my development and life.
Who is your role model?
My biggest role model has always been Cristiano Ronaldo. His incomparable commitment to his health and the game is why he has been at the top for almost 20 years. That work ethic and dedication along with his talent have inspired me since I was a kid. So much so, that growing up I researched his workouts, diet, etc., and tried my best to copy what he was doing so that one day I could be like him.
Where do you see yourself say in the next five years?
In the next 5 years, I see myself in peak performance. I believe with the experience gained throughout my career and the lessons I am constantly learning; I will be reaching my full potential. Who knows, maybe that will entail helping Kenya reach a World Cup.
Your dad is Kenyan, have you ever visited his country of birth? What’s your impression of the country?
Yes, my father was born and raised in Mombasa. I have yet to visit but my impressions through his stories and photos tell me it is a beautiful country, rich with culture. My grandparents still reside in Mombasa and I hope to be able to make my family proud and represent our country one day.
You have expressed your desire to play for the Kenyan National team, tell us more about that.
There are so many talented players coming out of Kenya, whether playing in the local league or abroad anyone with eyes can see the potential. I hope to be someone that can help drive the national team forward and continue to help pave the way for the program after me.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are just to continue pushing myself to be the best player I can and see where that takes me.