Abdou Samake is no stranger to adversity.
The former Michigan center back missed his entire freshman season due to injury. But following the setback, Samake would go on to appear in 54 games by the end of his senior year and emerged as a lockdown defender for the Wolverines. After graduating in 2019, Samake signed with a Canadian Premier League team, Pacific FC. Yet, misfortune struck again when the COVID-19 pandemic cut his first season short.
The period allowed Samake to work on his game individually and develop good habits. By the end of summer 2020, the Canadian Premiere League launched the Island Games, a month-long tournament held at the University of Prince Edward Island. Samake’s first game came as a last minute substitution, an underwhelming start to his career.
But soon after, Samake found himself in the starting line-up due to team injuries. In a do-or-die game against FC Edmonton, Pacific FC had to win to make the playoffs. With limited experience, Samake had to step up. His side won 2-1, making it to the next round.
“The night before, my coach told me a player was injured and to be ready for tomorrow,” Samake said. “That’s how the professional game is. You have to be ready when your opportunity comes.”
Samake found himself on the bench towards the beginning of the tournament only to pick up an injury towards the end of the season. Similar to his freshman year, Samake was forced to watch from afar as his new team continued without him. But even with his professional career not starting out the way he wanted, he had to stay mentally strong.
“I only got to play 89 minutes total that first professional year,” Samake said. “There were a lot of growing pains but a lot of growth first and foremost.”
Pacific FC played their first eight games of the 2021 season in a bubble in Winnipeg, Canada. Samake played the second game and earned a starting spot in the third when a defender went down. Once again Samake suddenly found himself called upon. He saw the opportunity and took it, playing the next seven games in a row.
“It’s been very positive for me,” Samake said. “I’m so grateful for my coaches. They’ve worked with me so hard to make sure I understand the right habits and play proper football. I really owe it to them.”
Finding his stride along the way, Samake has continued to establish himself as a reliable player. Without focus and a proper training regime, things can change very suddenly for new professionals. Samake knows this.
“I’m trying my best to focus on my daily process and routine that will get me to perform,” Samake said. “But obviously I strive to go at a high level.”
This is just the beginning for Samake. The Canadian Premier league is a stepping stone for many athletes looking to make the next step in their careers. Perhaps an MLS team or a move to Europe is in Samake’s future. But one thing for certain — Samake won’t stop until he reaches the top.
“I’ve been in game for three years now but I’m learning so much,” Samake said. “I know that there’s still a lot that I can grow into. I know that my ceiling is way higher than where I am right now.”