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ATO's Midfield treasure-trove keeps growing as Aboubacar Sissoko joins ATO

By Ben Ralph



Soccerlude may have officially come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the gifts are over for the Atlético Ottawa faithful. In a busy window which has already brought us the one-two punch of Tabla and Twardek in quick succession over the past few weeks, Atlético Ottawa will add another big name to its ranks, and it’s a player who will be very familiar to ATO fans. After years of speculation and negotiation, nudges, and rumours, Atlético Ottawa have finally captured the signature of serial CPL-winner Aboubacar Sissoko. 


“Honestly, I'm very happy to be here. It's been years the team wanted me but it didn't work, but now I'm really happy to be here.” After two years in Hamilton with Forge FC, Sissoko said being in Ottawa is something that is important to him, not just because of its proximity to family in Montreal, but also because of the raucous crowd ATO have become famous for.


“It was always tough to compete here because of the fans, because they are loud and they help their team. They give [Atleti] energy. So this is the energy they can give us this year to bring us success.”


The former U-Sports Player of the Year became a high profile player in his seasons with the Montreal Carabins, while also featuring at CS St-Hubert, the club which also gave starts to Zachary Roy and Sam Salter. After graduating in 2019, Sissoko tried his luck in Major League Soccer with Vancouver Whitecaps, in a promising trial which was extended but ultimately didn’t result in a contract. Then a tough tackling number six, Sissoko spent his CPL rookie season with the Halifax Wanderers before taking on a new challenge in the US at Indy Eleven. Returning to the CPL for the 2022 season, Sissoko continued to rack up team and individual accolades as he locked down a prominent role in the midfield of a Forge FC dynasty. 


This coming season the hard-working midfielder joins a dragon's hoard of a midfield which already features the likes of Ollie Bassett, Gabriel Antinoro and Alberto Zapater. While he could very easily feature at the base of the Atleti midfield, easing the load on Zapater, Sissoko suggests that he may serve as an entirely different cog in the Atleti midfield machine.


“I’m a midfielder – I used to play defensive midfield, but now I’m more attacking so I can do both. Now I can say I’m more of a box to box,” Sissoko said. Over the course of 59 league games for Forge FC, Sissoko scored six goals and contributed four assists. 


He explained how Forge FC helped him develop into not only a more complete player, but a better player too: “I can adapt myself to any situation. That’s my strength,” the box-to-box midfielder from Bamako said, explaining how past teammates would describe him as a smart, adaptable player. Over the span of his professional career, he has already played almost everywhere across the midfield and back line, including spending 90 minutes as a centreback in a 1-1 draw against Atlético Ottawa in 2022. If the 2024 ATO season plays out anywhere similar to how the first half of last season did, Sissoko's versatility will be tested and undoubtedly will become an asset.


Currently, Atlético Ottawa’s roster averages an age of 25 years with Zapater (and 24 years of age without); of the fifteen rostered players, seven were born after the turn of the century. The current build is trending towards young local talent – a promising sign for the club – but one that is crying out to be offset by experienced CPL players. In 28-year-old Sissoko, ATO has found its experience. Sissoko has worn the armband with a number of clubs across his career, boasts CONCACAF Champions League minutes, and says he hopes to help to build this bright generation of Atleti talent. But to him, the learning experience is bidirectional: “I’m open to listen to the youngest players. If they have advice to give me, I take it, but I can give them advice too. So it goes both ways. We’re just going to work together and have success together.”


If there are Atleti fans who are still yet to shake off the effects of October 30, 2022, when Sissoko played a full ninety minutes to claim the CPL title in Atlético Ottawa’s backyard, Sissoko assures that, “the past is the past.” He said he believes Atlético Ottawa has what it takes to achieve equal success: “When the season starts, every team has the same percentage to win the title. We have to be together and try to work together, do everything together. And I think we're going to have success.”


Question marks still remain around Aboubacar Sissoko next season. What position will he take when he dons the red and white stripes? What number will he be wearing: will it be 85, the number he wore at Indy Eleven as a tribute to his family and faith, or 33, the number he last donned for Forge? And finally, will he once more bring the CPL title to TD Place Stadium, this time for the right side? Only time will tell.


 

About Ben

Ben Ralph is a die-hard football fan and a journalism student at Carleton. He has been supporting Everton through the ups and downs (but mostly the downs) and could not believe his luck when he stumbled across Atlético Ottawa in 2021. Now part of the Atleti faithful, his dream has always been to write football stories, and he is excited to join other fans as writers for CCSG. His football journalist idols are Adam Hurrey, James Richardson, and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.





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