Monday, April 30, 2007
I had the pleasure of initiating a brief Q&A exchange with Bakary Soumare, the #2 2007 MLS Superdraft pick for the Chicago Fire out of the University of Virginia. A big 6'4" fullback in college, Bakary now plies his trade at the defensive midfielder position in Chicago. His story is an interesting one and I am sure all we did was scratch the surface, but he was born in Mali, moved to Paris when he was 3, and then to New York City sans family at 16. Coached by George Gelnovatch at the University of Virginia, Soumare was the third highest Cavalier to be selected in the MLS Superdraft (behind former #1 picks Alecko Eskandarian and Jason Moore). Despite only one year of collegiate competition, Soumare joined fellow Cavaliers Nico Colaluca and Adam Cristman in declaring for the Superdraft. With Marvell Wynne-raw talent, Soumare should develop into a Chicago Fire mainstay and a potential national team target.
Please excuse the tangential question order. My first Q&A, criticism is welcomed!
How was the transition from France to the United States?
It is always very difficult to move from one country to another, it can sometimes be challenging to adjust a new place, new culture, new people etc… On top that I was only 16 and it was tough to leave my parents back home. Also, A few months after my arrival in the States September 11th happened, I went to high school in New York City so it was shocking, no words can describe how it mentally affected me.
Born in Mali and living in Paris, France until you moved to the US, do you support any French teams? Any specific French players?
I grew up in the Paris area so obviously I was a big fan of PSG even though they have been absolutely awful in recent years. I love the French national. My favorite player is [Patrick] Vieira.
Do you use your French often?
Yes, I use my French a little bit. We have a French player in our team in Chicago (Pascal Bedrossian) so we always speak French together. Along with that I speak to my family in France everyday.
Any other teams or players you follow?
I like Chelsea, I love watching [Claude] Makelele play, I think he is one of the most underrated player in the world. Personally, I believe he is the best player at his position.
As your family is in Paris, how often do you head back to France?
I try to go as much as I can, The MLS season is very long so I would have to wait until the off-season to head there. I’m not sure how long I will stay there for, but at least a month for sure.
How was your Super-Y League experience? Do you think it is a good foundation for youth soccer in America or do other things need to happen?
Yes, many of my friends don’t think very highly of the Super Y League, but I had a great experience playing in that tournament for multiple reasons. First of all it allows smaller teams, who don’t necessarily get to play in the big tournaments (Dallas Cup, Jefferson Cup etc...) to play more games. Also, it is a great way to get some games in, it’s fun to train and all, but the best way for one to challenge him/herself is by playing games. It can also help getting recruited by top college programs especially when you make it to the national finals.
How was your time at the University of Virginia? Does the ‘legend of Bruce Arena’ still have an imprint on how that program is run?
Good question!! Virginia has, hands down, one of the best programs in the nation. I mean we have the best facilities in the country, a great coaching staff (George Gelnovatch and Mike McGinty are fantastic guys!!), and the whole community supports the soccer team, and finally it’s a tremendous academic institution. I could easily 10 pages about how great this program is. Of cours,e Bruce played an instrumental role in making the program one of the best programs of all time, his record speaks for itself. When you have a man like that who came through a program, of course he will always be remembered, he is a legend!!
If I remember correctly, the announcement of your pick at the 2007 MLS SuperDraft sat really well with the Chicago supporter groups? How are the Chicago fans?
That’s a simple question. Chicago Fire fans (esp. Section 8) are AWESOME!!! Anyone who follows the League would tell you, we have the best fans in the states by far. I mean they come to all the road games, they show up to all the events, I mean they are incredible, most importantly I know some of them personally and they are GREAT people.
What was training camp like for all the SuperDraftees? Did the veterans make it hard on you?
Well I can’t speak for all superdraftees, but in Chicago our veterans are awesome, I mean rather than making it hard on us, they are actually the ones who made the transition easier. They lead by example and push us everyday to be at our best. For example during fitness, our veteran guys were always in front of the pack, there is no better way to push a young player. I was rooming with Chris Armas during preseason and it really helped me, after every training we would talk for hours about different subject and I feel very close to him now. But the rest of veteran are great too, CJ Brown, Diego Gutierrez, Jon Busch, etc…
Who do you find the most influential on the team?
That’s a tough one. [Chris] Armas, [CJ] Brown, [Diego] Gutierrez, and Jim Curtin are very influential. But I talk a lot with some of the younger guys Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett are always there to keep my spirit high which is great!!
Which current MLS player would you be a little skeptical of marking?
Easy one: [Justin] Mapp, [Chris] Rolfe, or [Chad] Barrett!!!!
How do you like Chicago? Toyota Park?
LOVE IT!! Chicago is a great place, I mean it’s a fantastic city to live and play soccer. The fire is a great organization, everything is first-class (facilities, coaching staff, etc..) and Toyota park is beautiful, top notch stadium.
Besides yourself, who can you peg as the toughest defenders in the league?
CJ BROWN is a beast!!! I play defensive Midfielder now.
(clearly, I didn't do enough homework. Sorry, Bakary.)
Have you met [Cuauhtemoc] Blanco (new Chicago Fire signing and Mexican football legend) yet?
Yes, I briefly met him when he came, seems to very nice, Im looking forward to playing with, he is a great addition to our squad, he is going to help us achieve our goals (MLS CUP and USOC)
What’s your take on [David] Beckham coming to America?
It will be great for the Galaxy for sure, but it’s also very good for the league, it’s a step in the right direction, it will take soccer in the USA to new heights.
When national interest beckons (as it certainly is starting to), you will have quite the decision on your hands. Any clue as to what national team camp you will find yourself in? Mali with the Diarras? France with Patrick Vieira? Or the USA?
Im not sure yet, but if I was to make a decision right now, I would play for Mali, that’s where me and family are from.
What do you think the USMNT’s chances are in South Africa 2010?
I have been very impressed with the US national team under Bob Bradley, we have a great pool of young players playing in the best leagues around the world along with some talented players in the MLS. In 2010, I would not be surprised to see a great squad, hopefully we can either repeat 2002 or do even better.
Thank you Bakary and good luck with the rest of the season. Nice win for the Fire away at Houston, 1-0.