SAIT soccer squad ‘my new family’ for sensational Senegalese striker Diallo
November 1, 2012
CALGARY — Back home in West Africa, his beloved Senegalese national soccer team are known as the Lions of Teranga. Half a world away, on the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) sward, Amadou Diallo is showing off his hunting skills with a brand-new pride.
Diallo, 25, has fallen right into step with the SAIT Trojans men’s soccer team this fall. With considerable skills and creativity, Diallo has turned into one of the Men of Troy’s primary scoring threats — having led the ACAC champions from SAIT with six goals through nine ACAC regular-season games.
Conversely, the shifty five-foot-10 striker is just as grateful to his Trojan teammates — because it’s those shared pitch passions that have truly given him a place to hang his hat. Prior to arriving in Calgary in September and enrolling in SAIT Polytechnic’s bachelor of applied technology program in petroleum engineering, the French-speaking Diallo had lived for six years in Montreal, which has a much larger West African expat community.
“In Montreal, you’re going to find the Senegalese community everywhere. You walk two blocks, you’ll run into someone from Senegal. It’s not the same in Calgary,” says Diallo. “I love soccer; I can’t get enough soccer; and from the first day I joined this team, I didn’t feel like a stranger. It’s a really good fit. I don’t see myself like a stranger on this team. I’m comfortable. They trust me.
“I don’t have any family here. I’m by myself,” he adds. “But now I’ve got my new family — the SAIT Trojans.
For three years, while earning a degree in chemistry at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Diallo played for the Citadins men’s soccer squad, winning an indoor provincial title in 2008-09.
Now, he's got an outdoor crown to go with it. The Trojans won their first ACAC men's soccer title in program history on Oct. 28, edging Edmonton's NAIT Ooks 2-1 on a goal by Mike Hamm (2nd year, Cranbrook, B.C., business administration) during the second and final session of extra time.
The Trojans now enter the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association's (CCAA) men's soccer championship from Nov. 7 to 10 at Coquitlam, B.C., as the No. 1-ranked team in the tournament. They'll start things off on Wednesday, Nov. 7 against the No. 8-seeded Seneca College Sting of Toronto, an Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) wild card.
Diallo was one of three Trojans, along with midfielders Jaron Broom (2nd year, Calgary, business administration) and Jake Walmsley (1st year, Cranbrook, B.C., journalism arts), named ACAC South Division all-stars in advance of the provincial championship tournament at Red Deer College from Oct. 26 to 28.
Diallo — known as Lemzo back home, and Frenchy to his Trojan teammates — and fellow African striker Gbenga Ajibulu (2nd year, Kogi, Nigeria, bachelor of applied technology petroleum engineering) had 11 goals between them this season. That's more than a third of the offensive output of the South Division champion Trojans (8-1-1).
Gareth Sloan, back in the 1999-2000 season, holds the outright record for most goals in a regular season by a SAIT Trojan, with 11.
“Amadou has been a wonderful addition to the team — not only from a skill point of view, but his personality. He’s outgoing, extroverted . . . gets on well with everybody, says it exactly how it is . . . and he’s very much a coach’s player,” says veteran Trojans head coach Grant Stevens, who’s used Diallo both as a striker and an offensive-minded fullback on the pitch.
“When he starts as a striker with J.J. (Ajibulu), he plays all around J.J. . . . we use his intelligence to pick up the balls and distribute them. At other times, I’ll play J.J. and Piotr Pestka (5th year, Calgary, bachelor of applied technology geographic information) up front, and then substitute Frenchy,” says Stevens. “He brings a different thought process to the game in the second half that befuddles defenders.
“You’ve got J.J. with a lot of speed, and Pestka with some good striking ability. When Frenchy comes on, with his skill set and his ability to distribute, it really confuses the opposing defenders,” adds Stevens. “It’s very seldom that a coach can do that.”
Diallo is settling in socially, with a couple of his countrymen taking the same program at SAIT. Conveniently, so is Ajibulu. “He’s one year in front of me,” notes Diallo, “and we’re always together, on the field or off, because I’m asking him questions about courses, about materials.”
Diallo has spent very little of his life living in Senegal — he was born and grew up in Gabon, a neighboring West African country, as the son of Senegalese parents — but keeps an eye on soccer matters in the old country.
Diallo recalls, wistfully, the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, when the Lions of Teranga made their tournament debut — and stunned the defending world and European champions France 1-0 in the opener. After dispatching Les Bleus, Senegal drew Denmark and Uruguay to advance past pool play, knocked off Sweden in extra time in the second round, and was finally sidelined by Turkey in a quarterfinal.
Only two other African teams (Cameroon in 1990, Ghana in 2010) have made it that far at the World Cup.
“When they beat France, it was like, ‘OK, if you beat the champions, you’re the champions.’ That was the phrase everyone was using in the country,” he says. “It was so exciting. Everything was shut down — no school, nothing. Everybody, whether they loved soccer or not, was watching the TV.”