‘I’m going to be 100% dedicated’: Kareem Sow returns to Halifax Wanderers after balancing education and football

Halifax Wanderers FC announced on Monday they have signed 2021 U SPORTS draftee Kareem Sow through the 2024 season. A potentially familiar name to Wanderers fans, Sow, 23, has already made 16 CPL appearances for the club throughout the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

This being the Canadian defender’s third time signing for the Halifax side may raise some eyebrows surrounding the reasons behind his two departures.

“Even though I’ve had two professional contracts, in my head this is the first real professional contract that I’m going to be having,” Sow said. “Because it’s the first time I’m going to be 100 per cent dedicated to my sport and to my passion.”

Ever since being drafted by Halifax in the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft, Sow has taken any opportunity to play for the Wanderers. But the 23-year-old was also in the middle of completing his engineering degree at Université de Montreal, a degree that the Nova Scotia side were more than happy to support him through.

There are some harder classes in engineering and during those stressful times, I was like, ‘Do I continue this? Do I have their full support? Should I just stop this and go to Halifax right now? Because what if the opportunity isn’t there anymore?’,” Sow said. “But they have always been true to their word, letting me prove my worth and giving me a fighting chance at a contract, it’s something I don’t take for granted.”

This is not the first story of Halifax helping their players gain an education. Defender Mateo Restrepo was let go by the Wanderers in 2022 to chase an education at a prestigious medical school, while Colin Gander returned to the University of Guelph that same year from Halifax for his fall semester.

Matt Fegan, the club’s sporting director since December 2021, said in an interview that the choice to help Sow was a no-brainer.

“We’ve always, as a club, supported a player who has an opportunity to gain an education because a football career can only carry you so far,” Fegan said. “He was in a program that required him to [stay in Montreal], but to specialize where he’s based, it made the most sense for him to stick with it through school. It was a bit of a long play with him, but everybody over the years has been really impressed with his style.”

Sow is now in his final semester of his engineering degree, even pointing out that he left ‘the easy classes for last’ as he prepares for his first full season of CPL action.

It will have been just shy of two years since the Quebec native last made an appearance for the Wanderers at this season’s start. However, Sow’s integration back into the club and system was already in the works last season behind the scenes.

“Even though I didn’t play in the team in 2023, I was still in Halifax training with the team, learning about the culture, and the principles that the coach was trying to get in place for the season,” he said.

Sow said the trust he has put in the club and vice versa is something ‘very rare in the footballing world,’ with Fegan pointing out the patience it took, and how worthwhile the plan has already proven to be.

“It took some patience on our side and seeing the long play in it, like last year, even when we decided that we couldn’t commit a roster spot [to Kareem] we basically said, ‘when you graduate, we would like to bring you in here [full-time]’,” Fegan said. “He’s a very good person, he’s very good in the community, he’s got a mature head on his shoulders, he plays beyond his years. Those are the kind of people that we want to keep in and around the club.”

With the support of the club behind him, Sow looks forward to graduating from his engineering program. An impressive Plan A for anyone to look forward to, the same can’t be said for the newest Wanderer whose focus is entirely on the pitch.

“When I was younger, I was like ‘okay, I want a Plan B, let me finish my engineering degree’, but as soon as I finish this, I really want to get back into football and focus 100 per cent on it,” Sow said. “When I retire [from football], I will enjoy working in the engineering department, but as long as I can do both, my choice will always be to play football.”