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Atlético Ottawa defender Macdonald Niba: 'I have something to prove'

Cameroonian center back Macdonald Niba has signed for Atlético Ottawa following an illustrious career that has seen him recently win silverware in Hungary and Finland.

Niba will arrive in the Canadian Capital for his second stint playing football in Ontario - adding to two years with North Toronto FC back in 2015 where he was named L1O All-Star & Defender of the year in 2016 - and since then there has been a real cultural shift around the sport.

"It's amazing seeing what's happening in Canadian football," the 27-year-old told CCSG.

"I left Canada in 2017 and there was no professional league at the time and the national team wasn't close to where they're currently at."

The Buea-born defender doesn't intend to just be a passenger when it comes to Canada's football revolution either.

"I'm hoping to have a big impact in Ottawa and become a fan favorite," he said.

"I'm going to make sure I connect with the community and want to be a positive role model for youth players in the city."

Living by strength and aggression

Niba's style of defending can be defined as direct. He engages into tackles early, staying on his feet and using his power to dispossess opponents. Worth noting that he hasn't conceded a penalty since 2018 - although plenty of time for the Atléti jinx to get him back on track there.

Pacey and fearless with possession at at his feet, the Cameroonian can carry the ball out from the back and has a versatile range of passing on his stronger left foot - you'll often see him switching the play to the right wing in his highlight videos.

"I’m a tough tackler with a commanding presence in the air," he tells CCSG.

"On the pitch, I’m a fighter. I live by my strength and my aggression. Football to me is about emotion and passion. That’s what I’ve tried to deliver throughout my career."

At six-feet tall the 27-year-old is a commanding presence in the air too, bagging himself two assists in Finland, both from towering headers off of set-pieces.

Able to play anywhere in the heart of a defense, Niba has most recently been used on the left hand side of a back-three or a back-four and explained that CEO Fernando Lopez wants to exploit his experience "depending on which system the coach uses".

Top flight experience in Hungary and Finland have added silverware to his cabinets (and he even had the chance to face up against Union Berlin in a Europa Conference League Qualifier) and this sort of winning mentality is likely to be as strong an asset as Niba's on field abilities.

"Playing in Europe's top divisions made me a leader who openly dictates the game from the backline and helps organize the defensive shape while out of possession," Niba explained.

"A lot of hard work goes behind the scenes [to win trophies] and I'm excited to share my experiences in Europe with my new teammates."

Looking for more game time

2021 wasn't Niba's most accomplished year from a personal standpoint, playing second or third fiddle in a strong Kuopion Palloseura side.

"I had a difficult period during the last 2 months of the season getting playing time," he revealed.

"It was very competitive and the defenders who were playing were doing well and we were winning matches so it was difficult for the coach to change them.

"I’m really looking forward to this opportunity because I have something to prove this season."

A new country, a new city, a new league, a new chapter for a player with all the physical attributes to succeed in the Canadian Premier League and fans are certainly going to be excited about the relationship he forms with Captain Drew Beckie.

For Niba though, the fans themselves were a swaying factor.

"I've seen the videos of how electric you all are, and I look forward to playing in front of you," he said.

"2022 is going to be an exciting season and I will give my all to bring trophies to this club."

Niba is the first of six announcement's to be made by Atlético Ottawa on Wednesday.

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