FK Jerv are starting to make a name for themselves as a club with a habit of bringing big name signings down to their home of Grimstad. Whether it's David Faupala in 2019 or Erixon Danso in 2017 the club have had a penchant for a 'big name gamble' with variable successes in recent years.
Diego Campos signed for FK Jerv at the start of the 2020 season and has already impressed, scoring 4 and assisting 1 in 6 games. We spoke to Diego about growing up in the U.S.A college football system, his time with MLS side Chicago Fire and how his seemingly 'random' move to FK Jerv came about.
by Ben Wells
Ben: 'Hi Diego! You were born in Costa Rica but moved to the USA to play football at an early age, how big a move was this for you & was the goal to always play in the MLS at a young age?
Diego: 'The move was huge. I left my family when I was 16 and that was very hard. I also didn't know any English when I moved, so it definitely wasn't an easy transition at first. But my love for football has always driven me and my dream was always to play professional football no matter where and I knew moving to the US was going to give me a better opportunity to prepare for that.
Ben: 'College football is always something that interests me, what was the level of football like & was there always a set route from college football to an MLS team in America?'
Diego: 'First of all, I went to high school before I went to college. Montverde Academy (2013-2014) gave me the tools to be able to perform and adapt to a top level program such as Clemson University, who I joined in 2014.
College football was a great experience. I went to a nationally ranked university that consistently made the National Tournament every year, which massively helped me to prepare for the MLS. I wanted to play professionally no matter where but obviously the college system and MLS work together to give the student athletes an opportunity to play professionally after college football so that's why I ended up playing in the MLS.'
Ben: 'In 2018 you made your MLS debut, a year after leaving Clemson University. How would you summarize your time in the MLS with Chicago Fire? It seemed at one stage as though you may nail down a regular spot in the XI?'
Diego: 'Chicago was a great experience. I learned a lot playing next to experienced players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nicolas Gaitan. Seeing them & how they behave on and off the field was a huge honor and they were always helping me and guiding me on the pitch but also outside and I will always be grateful for that. Yeah, I was a regular starter in my first year and during the beginning of the second season I played a lot of games, gaining a lot of experience so that definitely helped me to grow as a player.'
Ben: 'Was leaving the MLS a tough decision to make... Or did you always have dreams of playing in Europe?'
Diego: 'Moving to Europe was a big decision for me because I've lived in the states for a long time. Also, the MLS is a great league where I learned a lot and enjoyed a lot so that was definitely a tough decision. But all in all, European football is something that has always been in my mind, so I decided to take the opportunity when it came my way.'
Ben: 'There have been a few players from Costa Rica playing in Norway lately, guys such as Wilmer Azofeifa (Sarpsborg) and Deyver Vega (Brann & Valerenga) for example, did you chat to either of these guys or anyone else before deciding on a move to Norway?'
Diego: 'I did not talk to them before I moved here. I talked to Deyver Vega a couple months after I moved when we played against Vålerenga.'
Ben: 'So I guess the question most people want to ask in that case is; 'Why Jerv'? They're a club I love from my time following the OBOS Ligaen but on paper your move there seems a little surprising, how did the move come about & what attracted you to the club?
Diego: 'I have a close friend who plays for Jerv, Iman Mafi. We played together at Clemson University for 2 years and always kept in contact after he graduated.
I told him I was not going to continue in MLS and he told me about a possible move to Norway. My time at the MLS was great, but there was one thing, I was playing out of my normal position on the field. I played at right back for 2 years for the Chicago Fire. Even though I gained a lot of experience and played a lot of minutes, I wanted to play my position which is in the attacking half of the field.
The coaches at Jerv gave me the opportunity to show them what I can do in the attack and that's why I came here.'
Ben: 'So how have you settled into life in Norway? Was the recent lockdown tough in terms of settling into new surroundings?'
Diego: 'My girlfriend and I have loved the country so far. We haven't had much time to see a lot because of the lockdown, but we have truly enjoyed Grimstad and the people here have been really great, so that has made the transition a little bit easier.
We have a really special group here at Jerv. When you play for coaches that believe in you, it shows. And here, the coaches do a really good job of getting the best out of every player.'
Ben: 'I've already had people messaging me on Twitter saying you're the OBOS Ligaen's Hernan Crespo! But, what players did you like to watch as a youngster growing up & do you look to model your game on any other players at all?'
Diego: 'Haha, that's awesome. My dad is a big Argentina fan so I grew up watching players like Hernan Crespo, Juan Roman Riquelme (my favorite player), Gabriel Omar Batistuta among others. Most recently, I like Sergio Aguero, Neymar, Antoine Griezmann.'
Ben: 'Cheers, Diego!'