KANSAS CITY, Kan.— Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal is a name that few people probably knew of before last Sunday.
But the 19-year-old Homegrown’s goal that helped Sporting Kansas City to a 4-1 win over Minnesota United last week introduced him a lot quicker than even he might have anticipated. The young man with the nickname “Malaysian Messi” is still growing up before our eyes.
While he still has plenty more ahead of him to do, let’s take a second and get to know him. Here are 10 things to know about the “Malaysian Messi.”
From Carbondale to Kansas City
Kuzain is originally from Carbondale, Illinois, roughly five hours southeast of Kansas City. He played at the St. Louis Scott Gallagher academy, a well-known academy that has produced plenty of young talents, including US men's national team and Weder Bremen youngster, Josh Sargent.
If his brother hadn’t landed a job in the Kansas City area, he might never have put on a Sporting KC uniform.
While playing with Scott Gallagher academy, he knew Sporting KC’s academy director, Jon Parry.
Parry had tried to recruit him to Sporting KC multiple times in the past, but with his brother’s move, “I guess the time was right,” Kuzain said. He joined the Sporting KC academy in August of 2016.
“I just saw the facilities that Sporting had, before we had Pinnacle. I saw the pathway, the chance that I had. I talked to [head coach] Peter [Vermes], and the higher ups. They said if I’m good enough, I’ll get my chance. And that’s how it all came about.”
First Comes Swope
He signed a deal with Swope Park Rangers later in August of 2016, allowing him to play with Sporting’s “B-Team,” which is considered the highest level of their academy. Over the last two years he’s made 21 appearances with Swope Park, accumulating roughly 1,500 minutes of action in USL.
On to the first team
On April 13th of this year, Sporting KC signed him to a Homegrown contract. In that press release to announce the deal, Vermes said, “Kuzain is a player who has come through our academy and developed at an incredible rate. He has an excellent understanding of his role in our model of play, and there is no doubt in our mind that he is deserving of a shot at the next level.”
Debuts, and first goals
Kuzain made his debut on May 27 in SKC’s contentious 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC. He was subbed on in the 87th minute, replacing Roger Espinoza. When the lineup came out for the next match, it looked likely he could make yet another late substitute appearance. But in the 18th minute against Minnesota United, Yohan Croizet went down holding his hamstring, and Kuzain was summoned to replace him earlier than expected.
He responded by scoring his first MLS goal in the 35th minute when a shot was blocked and came to him at the top of the box. His shot deflected off a Minnesota defender and into the back of the net.
“I’m still kind of shocked,” said Kuzain. “I still haven’t scored for Swope, so obviously to get one for the first team is nice.”
Life with a Malaysian upbringing
Kuzain was born to Malaysian parents in Carbondale, Ill. His home life very much reflected Malaysian culture and celebrated their heritage.
“I think it’s pretty heavily inside of me,” he said. “I eat Malaysian food, I feel like I was raised in Malaysia, and that I’m 100% Malaysian.”
Food and music
His Malaysian heritage definitely influences his favorite foods. Satay is his favorite, which is basically a chicken skewer that’s seasoned and grilled, and served with a sauce.
His favorite music to listen to however, doesn’t necessarily have as much of a Malaysian influence. What does he roll into the stadium blaring over his car speakers?
“Some R&B or hip hop to get me pumped,” he said. “Something along those lines.”
A calmness that belies his age
If there was any one word to describe his game Kuzain said that it would be, “Calm.”
“I’m just trying to be as cool, calm and collected as possible,” he said.
His passing map against Columbus surely indicates that, as he completed 31 of 32 passes in his first real long performance with the first team.
He loves his video games
He wants people to know he’s just like every other 19-year-old kid.
“I’m pretty simple,” Kuzain said. “I go home and play my XBOX, play some Fortnite and FIFA.”
Fortnite is easily the most popular game to play amongst Sporting KC’s squad, as Kuzain says everyone plays it.
“We all try to play,” he said. “I think everyone in the squad plays it. From the Latin American guys, to the European guys.”
But just because Fortnite is the most popular, doesn’t mean that’s his favorite to play. FIFA is definitely more his speed, and he claims a win against a big time figure in American Sports.
Chad Johnson, the former NFL wide receiver famously known as Chad Ochocinco, went on a streak a few years back of showing up at people’s houses and destroying them 1v1 in FIFA. Ochocinco thought he was headed to Kuzain’s house to put down another win. He thought wrong as Kuzain destroyed Chad Johnson.
Seems like the kid is full of surprises.