Mamadi Camara: Building a Pathway to Pursue the Childhood Dream
November 15, 2021
Jonathan Briggins, HFX Wanderers FC
You won’t find his name anywhere on the official match report, but Mamadi Camara was responsible for the final goal in the most exciting HFX Wanderers match all season. It came in his second game with his new club, a 3-3 draw with York United that looked like a sure loss for the Wanderers.
When Camara came on as a substitute in the 75th minute on September 6th, the score was 2-0 in favour of the visitors. Fast forward to the final whistle and the player nicknamed Mama is walking off the field with a smile on his face. It was an unpredictable, mind-blowing thriller that finished level at three. Camara got the last laugh in the thriller, with a header that hit the crossbar and then went off a York United player in what was ultimately ruled an own goal.
“The atmosphere here is incredible, it’s nothing like anywhere else,” says Camara after a late-season training session at the Wanderers Grounds.
“The fans here are incredible. They cheer us on for the whole game, they’re here early so it really helps us perform when it matters.”
The French Connection
The striker joined the team in September, adding another attacking option to head coach Stephen Hart’s arsenal for the final half of the season. While the signing came late, it wasn’t out of the blue for both parties involved. Naturally, since Camara is from Montreal, he already had connections with current and former HFX Wanderers players. He played with Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé on Team Quebec, was on the same youth team as Pierre Lamothe and also knew Sam Salter, Jems Geffrard, and Omar Kreim. He was also teammates in NCAA Division II playing for Simon Fraser University alongside Marcello Polisi.
“We looked at him for a couple of years as a potential player, so he was always on the radar,” says Stephen Hart. “He’s come in, he trains well, he works hard and he contributed with a couple of goals, which is important. He knew coming in that his time was going to not be consistent, but that’s part of it, just a matter of making a position yours when you get your opportunity.”
When the Wanderers made it to the final at the Island Games last season, Camara was rooting for the team with so many players and good friends from his home province, including former Wanderer Abou Sissoko. At the time, the 6-foot-3 forward was playing professionally in the United Soccer League for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. He returned to Quebec for the start of the 2021 season, playing for semi-professional side Celtix du Haut-Richelieu in the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec. He got off to a stellar start, grabbing attention with 11 goals in 10 matches — tops in the PLSQ before joining the Wanderers.
“The whole summer I was playing and I was visualizing myself coming here because I felt like, looking at how the team was doing and how I was doing back home, I felt they might need some attacking power,” says the Guinean-Canadian.
“I was really excited to come in and be able to help as much as I can in the short time that I’m here,” Camara says.
In 11 appearances with the Wanderers this season, Camara scored one goal. While he didn’t play in the Canadian Championship match against CF Montréal, he did get to share a moment with former Calgary Foothills teammate Joel Waterman, who played one season in the CPL for Cavalry FC.
“It was cool to share that moment with him after because we have crossed paths and we’ve become really good friends through soccer. It was good to see each other again in the pro game because a couple years ago we were just two young men trying to make it in the PDL. Obviously he plays in the MLS right now, I’m in the CPL. It was just a beautiful moment,” says Camara.
The Path to the Wanderers
While Camara has yet to play in Major League Soccer, he was one of six Canadians drafted in the 2019 MLS Superdraft when the San Jose Earthquakes drafted him 46th overall. Ultimately he didn’t sign with the club, but Camara picked up valuable lessons from the experience.
“I learned that anything is possible, just put your mind to it, put in the work every day and you never know when your chance is going to come, so just keep grinding every day,” Camara says of the lesson learned from the experience.
Like most kids playing a sport, he had dreams of becoming a professional athlete, a dream that would eventually come true when he joined Colorado in the USL on December 17, 2019.
“When I was a kid, I would say I wanted to be a pro but I didn’t really know what it meant. Then when I trained at Whitecaps FC 2 in 2016, just as a training player, that’s when I realized I could do it,” says the 26-year-old.
His focus was on signing that first pro contract, but Camara discovered being a professional is more than just a signature. It’s about how you approach training and games every day. Even though he was playing semi-pro to start the season, Camara says he was being a pro in his mentality and that approach to the game paid off when he was able to begin his journey with the Wanderers.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned to this day is just don’t focus on actually signing that piece of paper, focus on actually being a pro every day and you will get to where you want to get,” reflects Camara.
After a short season with the Wanderers, Camara has a club option for the 2022 season. Wherever he is next season, one thing is for certain: he’s already visualizing future success.
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