Get To Know: Aboubakary Sacko
How I met Abou Sacko
Remember when Atletico Ottawa was training in Spain to get ready for their 2023 season and that the supporters were asking for new signings almost everyday ? Well, one of their prayers was answered the day a new kid from France was announced. With an interesting football background and already 251 minutes played with Ottawa, Abou Sacko has caught the eyes of every Canadian Premier League fan.
When I reached out to him and asked if he was interested in being part of this series, Abou said yes without hesitation, but followed with a really honest comment: «I don’t think my English is good enough». At this moment, I knew that French being my first language was now in my advantage, because not only was I able to give him the option to have this conversation in French, but I knew Abou would feel comfortable enough to express himself fully – and that’s what he did.
This is usually the part where I tell you how I met Abou Sacko, but I haven’t. And even if we never really spoke outside of video calls, me choosing him for this series wasn’t random at all. If you don’t already know by now, by signing with Atletico, Abou shares the pitch with one of my best friends, Zakaria Bahous. When they got back from Spain, Zak told me all about that new kid from France with an interesting football background and an even more interesting personality. He added that he was sure I would love him and even if I would trust Zak with my life, I was a little doubtful. The day that doubt faded was the day I shot my first 2023 match at TD Place. Later that night when I was home, Abou sent me a voice message thanking me for the photos and telling me how sorry he was that he wasn’t able to say hi and properly introduce himself.
Choosing Abou Sacko for this series wasn’t random at all, because while I believed he was worth discovering off the pitch, I also felt that I had to add my voice to his to allow the readers to get to know the human behind the footballer, through his own words.
And yes, Zak was right, but don’t worry – I’m sure you guys will love him too.
The 20 completely random questions
1. What made you fall in love with football ?
My father. He has always been a big fan of football and inevitably as soon as I was born, I only saw football. My father watched football, he signed me up and I also followed my older brother who was playing. I fell in love with this sport without even discovering any other.
2. This is your first time playing in a Canadian league as you were developed in the youth system of a French club; Le Havre. What are the biggest differences that you have noticed between these types of play until now ?
I haven’t been here for a very long time so I haven’t noticed a lot of it, but there are differences in the impact – it’s not the same. It is also specific to each team, but I see differences in the instructions and formation; in France it wasn’t the same formation and the same type of game. I used to play in a 4-3-3 and today I play a defensive 4-4-2 which changes in the offensive phase, but like any footballer, we just need to adapt. Personally as an offensive full-back, I like having that space because it gives me the opportunity to attack and I love what the coach is putting in place because it’s perfect for me. I played in different championships in France so everything can be compared, but in the end football is football and there are good players everywhere.
3. What’s the career highlight you’re most proud of so far ?
From my young career, I want to tell you that I will remember my professional signing with Atletico Ottawa. It is obviously something that marks the career of a footballer because signing pro is not given to everyone. To be able to make my parents proud to have a son who plays professionally. This is only the beginning, however, it is often said that the first professional contract is the easiest to gain and that the second is the most difficult, so I hope to be able to continue and have a long career.
4. If football wasn’t a part of your life, what path would you have taken ?
I think I would have been an athlete but I don’t know what sport. I also like entrepreneurship. This is a question we get asked often; what would we do without football – but it’s also a question that we ourselves have never answered to be honest. Yes as a footballer, we were always told that we must have a plan B and in school, we were asked if football does not work, what are you going to do? But when you leave your family at 13, you don’t see your friends anymore, you make a lot of sacrifices and you put everything on it; you only think about this, you only live for this and you don’t even want to think of another option. Football was my Plan A.
5. You can sign in your actual team a player you’ve already played with. Tell me who it is, when you shared the pitch together and why he is your choice.
If I answer footballistically, one of the players with whom I had the most complicity and pleasure on the pitch is Amadou Samoura; he plays with Le Havre. If I had to answer from a friendly point of view it would be impossible. There are so many names I could give because football creates incredible friendships, they became brothers for me.
6. You wear the number 91, can you explain to us why ?
For Canadians who do not know, the French territory is divided into regions which have departments. Each department has its own postal code and I come from the 91; Essonne. The choice was not made quickly, but after some thinking I turned to this number because it represented me well. It’s a nod to France now that I play in Canada, but come to think of it, if I played in France I think it’s also a number I would like to wear.
7. Do you have any rituals on game day ?
I don’t really have a game day ritual in terms of waking up or eating, because it depends where you play, whether it’s an away game or a home game. When I arrive at the stadium I have this pre-game ritual where I walk on the field and I go to my position – so in the left lane for the first half and in the left lane for the second half. I put myself in place and in a situation to create a few scenarios in my head. In the locker room, I always start by putting on my right side so my right shin guard, my right sock and my right cleat before my left one. I even enter the pitch with my right foot. Other than that, no other game day rituals.
8. You’re playing a 5v5 and the team has to be made with players you shared the pitch with. You need to include a goalkeeper and yourself, who else are you calling up ?
As a goalkeeper, I would take a friend of mine; Melvin Douniama. He was trained in Le Havre with me and currently plays with Paris FC. He’s one of the best goalkeepers I’ve seen, he has incredible footwork, good technique, and he’s reassuring – his only problem is that he’s an idiot.
Playing as a defender with me I would bring Isaak Toure. He’s a beast, he’s super strong and even though he’s one of the tallest footballers in the world (6’8”) he’s very technical. He’s currently under contract with Olympique de Marseille, on loan with AJ Auxerre. For the three players that I’m missing, I would put Beni Souza. He was a futsal player before he started his football career and I have rarely seen someone as technical as him.
Then I need a striker, a number nine – Elysee Logbo. He is a player of the 2004 generation and he turned pro at Le Havre last summer. To finish, I would add Mohamed Tbahriti who also played in Le Havre with me. He is one of my best friends and I would choose him because he is small, technically fine and he is a player who can make a difference at any time. It’s a team completely made up of French players, but I would also be able to make a team with players I’ve met in Ottawa and be as confident.
9. How would your friends describe you ?
You’d have to ask them, but I think they would describe me as a nice, kind person. A person who is always there for them, who gives good advice and above all, someone who is real.
10. What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better ?
There would be several things. If it’s football related; to play a good match, a win, to score a goal or something like that. If it’s non-football, I would say seeing my family. My little brother, the youngest, he’s five years old and he’s everything to me. We are several years apart and he’s someone who means a lot to me so seeing him on the phone, if I’ve had a bad day, it’s heartwarming.
11. If you could have a chat with any football player, dead or alive, who would you sit down with and what question would you ask him?
Oh what a great question! I am hesitating between a player who was unanimous or a player who has evolved in my position. I would probably go with a player like Neymar because he had a lot of injuries and he made non-football mistakes. He could tell me about all that, where he made mistakes and allow me not to reproduce them. I would also like a player like Rodri for his simplicity. A player like him who has an exemplary career, who has passed all levels of football. Today he is internationally recognized, he plays in a big club, and I would like him to tell me what he did, what he avoided, how he got there and the advice he could give me to improve myself.
12. What’s your go-to cheat meal ?
Can I name two again? Quickly like that, the first thing I think of is a good shawarma with my friends. I haven’t found one in Ottawa yet. The second would be a good dish cooked from my mother, it’s always a good option.
13. You are offered $500,000 and you have 24 hours to spend the money and you can’t invest it – how do you spend it?
I’m buying a car, I don’t know if there will be any money left. I’m a Mercedes fan so this is what I would buy, a GT 63 S or something like that. Well now I don’t know if I have money left or if I will owe some, but if there is left I would like to please my loved ones.
14. According to you, what first impression do people have when they meet you?
I believe that I give a rather positive first impression. I’m open, not introverted. I don’t have an oversized ego and I believe that I give the image of someone calm with whom you can laugh and have good time!
15. What’s your favorite holiday and why ?
My favorite holiday is Eid. It is a Muslim religious holiday at the end of Ramadan. We get together as a family, we eat, we dress well and we give each other gifts. This year, I couldn’t celebrate it because I’m here but it’s for a good cause!
16. What’s the best advice a family member has given you ?
This is advice that comes from my father: whether in football or in my life projects, he always told me to have confidence in myself because if I don’t have confidence in myself, others wouldn’t have faith in me either. It’s something simple, but true. I’m someone who doesn’t have a big ego and I sometimes have doubts, especially as an athlete. When you do a bad performance, when you make 2-3 bad passes; these are things that happen, but this sentence reminds me that I have to believe in myself no matter the situation. My father always repeats it to me and it allowed me to move forward and be where I am today.
17. You’re stuck on a desert island with someone and that person has to be a player that played for Atletico Ottawa. Who do you want to be stuck with and why ?
I should take a French-speaking player so that we can understand each other… or perhaps an English player so that at the end of the excursion my English will be better. I think I’m going to choose Jean-Aniel Assi because I could have a good laugh with him. I don’t think we’ll survive, he can’t do anything, but we’ll have a good time. We could die happy!
18. Tell me something we don’t know about you
That when I don’t have football, don’t talk to me about football. When I’m done and I’m with my friends, I tell them that I don’t want to talk about it. I get my football dose with training and games, so when I’m with my friends I want to be able to enjoy life off the pitch. I like to do debriefs and everything, but my friends are just too much sometimes. They can talk to me about certain plays 2-3 days later and my father is the same. From a week before the next match, he won’t let me go and he can tell me about all the actions that I should’ve done better.
19. Who is Abou Sacko going to be once he’s done being a professional footballer ?
If his career goes as he wants, after his career Abou Sacko will be an entrepreneur. I don’t believe in redirecting myself into football as a coach, agent, or something like that. I believe that when I end my career, football will be done for me, because there are so many things I want to discover. I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, so why not? I will always watch football, I will always have an eye on the teams I played for, but I think I will be an entrepreneur who will enjoy life to the fullest.
20. Who inspires you?
My parents. My mother and my father inspire me because they have been through a lot. My father came to France so that his children could have a good education and it was not always easy. They went through hardships and to make them proud, having their name on a jersey, it’s incredible. To make them proud is my only desire and as long as I can do that, no matter what other people think, it can never get to me.
21. What’s your definition of happiness ?
I’ll give you two answers one last time, ok? I’ll give you the simplest one and then the one of a little kid from Paris who struggled. The simplest one is to be with loved ones, that everyone is healthy and that we can enjoy life. The definition from the little kid from Paris would be to get his family out of the hard times and be able to offer my family everything they want, what they dream of. I would like to tell my parents that they can stop working permanently. I have an older brother and three younger brothers and I wish I could take care of everyone.