TORONTO — Kouame Ouattara thought twice before boarding a bus from Moncton to Halifax late last week.
The Ivorian midfielder admitted to CanPL.ca he was somewhat perplexed by the Canadian Premier League’s “Open Trials” concept.
Was it really an opportunity? Was it worth a two-day excursion? Would he really be seen?
Still, Ouattara was intrigued when a buddy shared a Facebook post promoting the event at Dalhousie University’s Wickwire Field.
“In Europe they don’t do open tryouts,” Ouattara, a noted standout in the Maritimes, told CanPL.ca. “They invite people if you have an agent or something like that. I was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure.’”
Needless to say, Ouattara was skeptical. But a final push from a friend convinced the 27-year-old to board a bus and attend last week’s showcase in front of onlooking CPL coaches and the league’s top brass.
“I talked to one of my friends and he said, ‘Go, you’ll have a fun experience,’” Ouattara recalled. “I decided to come, to enjoy the show, and that’s what I did.”
For the former Moncton University standout, this most recent kick at becoming a professional footballer came nine years after a trial with La Liga side Levante.
“I wasn’t good enough,” Ouattara reflected back as the lights turned off at Wickwire. “I wasn’t prepared. It was very fast (in Spain).”
His next best option, he said, was joining his brother in New Brunswick to pursue an education.
Encouraged by his father, Ouattara relocated to the Maritimes in 2010 and joined the Aigles Bleus for an initial collegiate season.
But his itch to become a full-fledged professional remained.
“There weren’t opportunities (in Canada) for soccer,” he interjected.
With his dream still alive, Ouattara returned to Europe in 2011 to pursue playing opportunities in France.
However, things didn’t work out for the defensive stalwart, who returned to Moncton two years later to earn a Masters degree and finish out his collegiate playing career.
With professional opportunities in Canada still limited at the time, Ouattara eventually found a spot in the Premiere Ligue de soccer du Quebec (PLSQ), joining FC Gatineau in 2016 before suffering an injury that forced a move back, once again, to Moncton.
He’s been in the job market ever since, looking for opportunities to use his business degree whilst keeping an eye on playing opportunities.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be a professional soccer player,” Ouattara responded after being asked what’s waiting for him in New Brunswick.
In other words, the Ivorian midfielder is waiting to hear if he caught the eye of a CPL manager.
“They told me I was a good player. Only that made my day,” Ouattara told CanPL.ca. “I can go home proud and say at least one of the coaches said I’m a good player.”
Asked how he thought he fared, Ouattara was modest.
“I couldn’t watch me play so I don’t know,” he said. “Most of the people said I was playing good. I don’t see it. For me, I was playing just simple and enjoying my game.”
The experience, Ouattara added, was well worth the long bus ride and multiple-night stay at a friend’s place.
“It was better than I expected,” he said of the Halifax trials. “I saw a lot of very, very good players from Manitoba and Ottawa who travelled to come here and try. It was just fantastic.”
He departed Nova Scotia after describing himself for inquiring CPL coaches.
“Whenever you need a midfielder or centre back, I’ll be there,” he said.
The CPL’s #GotGame trials now head to Montreal (Sept. 27-28), before making stops in Hamilton (Oct. 1-2), Toronto (Oct. 11-12), Winnipeg (Oct. 18-19), Calgary (Oct. 25-26) and Vancouver Island (Nov. 5-6). Think you’ve #GotGame? Register at CanPL.ca/GotGame.