Edmond Tapsoba has admitted that even he has been surprised by how quickly he has adapted to life in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen since arriving in the January transfer window.
The 21-year-old centre-back has enjoyed a whirlwind rise to the top of the game since leaving his native Burkina Faso just three years ago, and is now an undisputed first-team regular in head coach Peter Bosz’s side…
bundesliga.com: Why did you start playing football as a child?
Edmond Tapsoba: "It was a sport that I loved. It was my passion. I played in my neighbourhood with all the other young people. It was only when I went to Salitas that I realised I had a chance of making it in football.”
bundesliga.com: What was it like growing up in Burkina Faso?
Tapsoba: “It was a bit hard, because of the famine there. I come from a relatively poor family. They supported me in every way that they could. When I was 13 I went to Salitas. I spent three years there and underwent my development there as a player. When I was 18 I went to Portugal. I wouldn’t say that it was easy [to leave Burkina Faso] but with the support of those close to me, I was able to do it.”
Watch: Tapsoba's Bundesliga baptism of fire in a 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund
bundesliga.com: Was it difficult living by yourself in Portugal at the age of 18?
Tapsoba: “Yes, the first few months were very difficult. I had never been away from Burkina Faso for more than two or three months; I had always been close to my parents and my family. It was very complicated to start alone at the age of 18. But there were lots of people there who were very welcoming. They made me feel like I was at home. I was focused on working hard and proving myself.”
bundesliga.com: Are you a family man?
Tapsoba: “Yes, I love my family very much. After I left for Portugal I didn't return to Burkina Faso for two years. Those were the two most difficult years of my life. To not see your mother for two years is very difficult. I'm very close to her, and to my father as well. I'd say I'm very much a family man.”
bundesliga.com: Who was your role model in terms of football?
Tapsoba: “I would say [former Werder Bremen defender] Per Mertesacker, from Germany, is a player that I liked a lot when I was younger. When I started to grow older I liked John Stones a lot too. I watched all the videos on YouTube. I would say that’s what inspired me. I also wanted to help my family, because they deserve it very much. They inspired me to work hard every single day.”
bundesliga.com: Did your father play football?
Tapsoba: “No, he didn't. My father did what he could to support his family, as is common in Africa.”
bundesliga.com: Did your father support you and your footballing career?
Tapsoba: “At the beginning it was a bit difficult because he wanted me to go to school. I went to school but I liked football a lot and often skipped school for training. It wasn't easy. It was difficult to choose between training and school but I have no regrets today.”
bundesliga.com: What were the football pitches like in Burkina Faso?
Tapsoba: “We have pitches in Burkina, but not pitches like over here. It was only after I went to Salitas that I started to play on better pitches. We used to play on the streets, on dirt pitches. It was always good fun and everyone had a good time. It was when I went to Salitas and played U17 and U19 level that I started to travel a bit and discover pitches like this one. But no, there are not pitches of this quality in Burkina.”
bundesliga.com: Are there lots of good footballers in your homeland?
Tapsoba: “Yes, there are lots of good players in my opinion. When players reach the top division they look to move abroad. We are confronted with a problem where lots of people pretend to be managers and look to take advantage of the players. So it's difficult for players to get a move abroad. But the situation is starting to improve slowly now.”
bundesliga.com: What is it like playing football there?
Tapsoba: “It's not easy to play in Burkina but it shapes you very much as a player – the mentality, the combativeness. It’s a good place to learn.”
bundesliga.com: Have you given advice to players hoping to move to Europe?
Tapsoba: “I've stayed in contact with them. I tell them what it is like here – what training is like, how people live here, the coaches, what they like and what they don't like. I try to help them in every way that I can. They are like my family. I tell them to listen to the coach because he knows what he is talking about. I have to say I did not listen; I listened a bit but not that much. But today, I have no regrets. Get lots of sleep, don't go out too much – these things are really important in the world of a footballer.”
bundesliga.com: Did you always want to go professional?
Tapsoba: “To be honest, yes. But I didn't think it would happen so soon. Everything happened so quickly. I found myself here in less than three years, which I never expected. But when you're a footballer, when you are young, we all have dreams. We don't know when these dreams are going to come true, and that was the case for me. I always dreamed of becoming a footballer, but I never knew that it would happen in this way.”
bundesliga.com: Was your move to the Bundesliga a dream come true?
Tapsoba: “Yes, it is a dream that became reality. It happened so quickly. But it's important that I keep working hard, that I keep listening. I learned that from my older brother. Always believe in myself.”
bundesliga.com: Did you ever imagine that you would progress so quickly as a player?
Tapsoba: “No, I never expected to establish myself so quickly. I arrived in January and thought I would need at least six months or so to adapt and to get settled. But when I arrived, my teammates welcomed me straight away and the coach put his trust in me. With this level of backing, any player could have done what I did.”
bundesliga.com: Is it difficult playing as a defender in the Bundesliga?
Tapsoba: “Yes, I would say it is very difficult. Because all the teams attack, and the defenders are expected to stop counterattacks, often one-on-one. There's lots of space on the pitch. But this is what I enjoy – I'm a defender and I have to defend for my team. It's always a pleasure to play because Leverkusen is a team that plays good football. We attack a lot, so the defenders are often left one-on-one on the counterattack. It’s difficult but I love it.”
bundesliga.com: Who has helped you most in settling in at Leverkusen?
Tapsoba: “I would say it was the coach and my teammates as well. Because they welcomed me here, the coach spoke to me at length. He gave me lots of confidence, and that made the move very easy.”
bundesliga.com: Who do you get on with best in the squad?
bundesliga.com: What are your key areas for improvement as a footballer?
Tapsoba: “I have to learn to read games very quickly. That’s the key one.”
bundesliga.com: How would you describe life in Germany?
Tapsoba: “It’s life in Europe. Everyone is focused on their work, their family, whereas in Burkina you have your cousins there and you know every single person in your neighbourhood. It's impossible to be alone.”