Tragedy and heartache shaped Abubakar Sissoko’s path to the top of university sports


Aboubacar Sissoko would have wanted nothing more than to celebrate with his mother, Yacine Coulibaly, after learning that he had won the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Sport Award as U Sports athlete last week.

She was the one who encouraged him to stick to football after he tried to jump to the professionals, but was cut down by the Canadian Premier League last year.

He recalls that he was demoralized when he was released, but her support convinced him to return to the University of Montreal to earn a degree and play one more year for carbines.

“She came to all my games,” Sissoko said.

“She took care of me. I can say that because of her today I am here. ”

But a conversation with his mother was impossible, because she died suddenly on May 1, when she was only 57 years old.

“It’s a tragedy, but it’s a life,” Sissoko said.

He says the doctors told him that her death was due to natural causes, and not due to COVID-19.

Sissoko, 24, already knew what it was like to lose a parent; his father also suddenly died eight years ago. Like his mother, he was only 57 years old at the time of his death.

Sissoko’s father was a diplomat from Mali and worked in aviation. He emigrated with his family to Montreal from Africa in 2006, when Abubakar was nine years old.

Brush with death

While the path to success for any athlete is rarely straight, Sissoko has experienced more difficulties than an ordinary person trying to become a professional footballer.

Abubacar Sissoko is the first man from the University of Montreal to win the Athlete of the Year Award. (James Hajar / Montreal Carabins)

In addition to losing both parents before age 25, he also had his own death from death when he was a teenager.

In 2014, after playing a tournament with the national team of Mali, where they qualified for the U20 World Cup, he returned to Canada, fell ill with malaria and fell into a coma.

“I was with my brother in his car, I got out of the car, and it was a“ boom ”- it happened. Three days later, I woke up in a hospital, ”Sissoko said.

He says that the experience of lying in a hospital bed after he woke up from a coma changed him.

“After that, I was a new person. I enjoy my life, I am happy to be in good shape and not get sick. Being in the hospital was very difficult. This experience helped me get better, ”he said.

“I survived.”

Another shot at the pros

Sissoko recently had a trial of the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS, but this spring he was released after collecting. Now he’s back in the CPL with Halifax Wanderers, where he hopes to have a breakout season as a rookie.

There are several Montreal players on the list of wanderers, such as striker Omar Kraim, who had been Sissoko’s mate with carbines for months, and he says he made it easier to go to Halifax.

“This is a good team spirit. We are all brothers, ”said Sissoko.

But no matter what happens to Sissoko on a professional level, his place in history textbooks at the University of Montreal is defined.

Having won the highest U Sports award, he became the first athlete from the school to receive a prize and the third overall after volleyball players Letizia Chualac, who won in 2008, and Marie-Alex Belanger, who won in 2018.

“To be honest, yes, I’m surprised. If you told me 10 or five years ago, I would have won that I would not believe you, ”Sissoko said.



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