When it came to which country you would represent at the international level, you had a few options open, if I'm not mistaken. What made you choose Canada?
-I got an invitation to play for Singapore, when I was 20 years old, to play for the U'21s playing against Japan, which I thought was an opening for a chance to play for Japan. That game I scored 2 goals and got man of the match; the coach of Japan, after the game, said that there were good Japanese players everywhere so it was a nice way of rejecting me. After that game I just wanted to beat Japan for how shit they had been treating me, including at Niigata and Tokyo Verdy. I just wanted to prove to those narrow minded people that I was better, and one day I will in front of them. Like a small anger that’s been tucked away you know? England was just where I grew up but could never really call home so it was an easy decision for me when Stephen Hart called me up.
What was it like starting your career as a youth in Japan?
It was hard; the culture was a real shocker. You talk in a different way to people, even if they are 6 months older than you, that’s just the way it is. So it didn’t matter if you were bigger or anything. I remember my first couple of months there; one of the older guys threw a 100 yen at me and told me to go get a coke for him, which was outside. I had a towel on and it was obvious I was about to hit the shower and this guy, who was fully clothed, threw money at me and demanded a coke. I as a European tripped and was disgusted at what was just said. I threw it back and the other young guys all looked at me, shocked, and basically to keep a long story short, all held me back. It’s just the way players grow up over there, you treat others like you’ve been treated you know? Then I heard it used to be a lot worse, but I did enjoy it a lot there and I do love Tokyo and it will always be my second home.
You then moved on to Singapore, playing for Albirex Niigata Singapore. How would you describe your experience playing in a country that is often left untouched by players?
Albirex received and invitation to set up a club in Singapore, as Singapore is so small they have other countries’ clubs set up there, which makes the league pretty interesting. So Albirex sent their whole reserve team there to get more games in the top league, which is a different pressure. The young guys, including myself, basically had no other choices. I just wanted to play so I took the offer, plus if you did do well the Japanese club would take you back, as you were on loan. I was the top scorer for the club but they took the second top scorer who was 3 yrs older and said to me that I was still too young. It was hard to swallow but I thought, “okay”, and in the 2nd year I won the young player award in the S-League, but still the Japanese club said to me one more year, so that’s when the Danish coach who was the coach for the Singapore U'21 team offered to take me to Vejle. But Singapore is a great city and I definitely see my self playing there later on in the future, as Singapore was very good to me.
When you had decided to move on from Singapore, is it true that you attempted to transfer to England?
Yeah, there was some trouble from Vejle, being skeptical of a young player from Singapore, so I had to find other solutions. Other coaches in Singapore gave me trials, and I went to Portsmouth, who had no coach at the time. Redknapp had just come in so it was the worst time to be there on trial even though I was there for 3 weeks. Plus my parents were living in London so it would have been nice to play there when I’ve been playing away for the last 5 years.
You then moved to Denmark, and have played with Vejle Boldklub and FC Nordsjælland. Was there a severe jump in the quality of the league? And how have you found it playing football in Denmark?
Well maybe more coverage over the games but having to play with so many different players, I realized there are great players everywhere; it’s just how lucky you get which determines where you play. But playing here definitely gives me more windows and chances for moving up the ladder. I think it’s a different style as players are stronger (in Denmark), but Japanese football is very fast with players shutting you down fast. I think playing in different countries has made me adapt faster. I do really like playing here with FCN, as everything is on the ground with players playing fast, quick football. It’s also the coach’s vision of football, which makes it exciting.
Do you stay in touch with F.C. Copenhagen's Atiba Hutchinson?
Yeah I live 8 minutes away, so I’m usually hanging out with him at cafes, as Copenhagen is a great cafe culture. It’s the thing to do here, and it helps both being single too.
What is your favoured position as a player, and what do you feel are your best attributes?
Left wing, Right wing, depends on the day and I like to switch a lot on the field. Like the ball being switched and create chances from the side, comfortable on both sides. I think I can create chances from different angles.
You represented Canada at the 2007 Gold Cup. How did you, and the rest of the team, deal with the missed call against the United States?
Obviously it was a killer decision, especially when the replay shows it wasn’t offside. None of the players like losing and as I hear from the other players, this year’s Canadian team is the strongest it’s ever been. So for me it was just nice being part of that. But again no one likes sitting on the bench so I wish I had more time but I guess you just have to be patient. But after that game, even though I think we were all outraged at the outcome, it gave us a lot more confidence knowing we can win these games.
What do you attribute the team's recent poor form to and will the team have their Gold Cup form back for World Cup qualifying?
I think so… its a hidden rule that players all perform better in big events, so there’s no doubt that we will all have a point to prove.
What are your thoughts about Canada playing Brazil, and how do you feel the CSA has done since it came under such criticism over the past year or so?
I think it’s a great experience to be playing the former world champions. I’m not too familiar with what goes on behind the scenes with the CSA, but from what I gather from the other guys it needs improvement. But for myself, I just want to be proving myself if I come on to the pitch and that’s all that matters on the day. I’m sure things are on the up curve.
How would you describe your brother, Paris, as a player? And how do you feel about being able to play with him for Canada?
It’s always been our dream to play along side each other, and the camp in February was the first, so it was nice playing with him as we are pretty close. Having gone through the same experience in Japan and having to see and experience his development was something really special. I think he’s a natural leader and can win balls which is a great asset. He’s got a great left foot and I think he is a smarter player when it comes to the passing side of the game. He was always the defender and I was the attacker when we used to play after school, so we grew up just like that. Bullying him made him more aggressive as well, and I have no doubt about his career.
And finally, it seems that you are quite the artist! How did this happen?
Art at school gave me the interest really. The long distant relationships lead my thoughts through a paint brush which also takes my mind off football. The thing about art is that it’s nice to let your fingers do all the talking with no one telling you what’s right or wrong.
Check out Issey's website here!