York United signs Liberian defender Brem Soumaoro

York United FC announced on Wednesday the signing of Liberian defender Brem Soumaoro on a one-year deal, plus club options.

The 26-year-old has spent the majority of his career in the Netherlands having moved there when he was eight years old, though most recently he was with PAEEK in the Cypriot top-flight where he made 26 appearances in all competitions during the 2021/22 campaign.

Prior to the move to Nicosia, Soumaoro was with MVV Maastricht in the Dutch second-tier and — once again — was a consistent presence at the back, racking up 19 games in league and cup action. He also spent a season with FC Den Bosch, making 14 appearances overall.

Soumaoro began his football education in the Dutch city of Enschede, joining FC Twente’s academy when he was just 10 years of age. After many years in the club’s underage system, he finally graduated and made his professional debut in a Jupiler League clash for Jong Twente against RKC Waalwijk in August 2014 before going on to make a further eleven appearances.

Continuing his development, Soumaoro was included in the senior squad for a litany of Eredivisie games in 2016 before signing with Go Ahead Eagles the following year, making 20 appearances for the side.

By 2018, Soumaoro had impressed sufficiently to sign with Italian club US Livorno in Serie B and he ended the season with four appearances to his name. He made his debut for the side in a cup clash with Crotone and went on to appear in fixtures against the likes of Brescia, Padova and Spezia. He briefly returned to Jong Twente in 2020, before his switch to FC Den Bosch.

Though born in the Guinean city of Nzérékoré and having spent a large chunk of his life in the Netherlands, Soumaoro qualified to play for Liberia through his parents. In August 2021, he was called into Peter Butler’s squad for a pair of upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Central African Republic and played 90 minutes in both games.

There were further appearances against the same opponents later in the year, plus back-to-back encounters with Cape Verde. In early 2022, Soumaoro was handed the captain’s armband for the first time for a friendly with Benin. In June of last year, he led the team again, this time for a high-profile Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with eventual World Cup semi-finalists Morocco. In total, he’s already made 10 appearances for his country and has quickly established himself as a crucial ingredient in the group.

“I’m very happy Brem has decided to join our club,” says Angus McNab, York United FC’s CEO/President and GM.

“He’s got great experience in the Netherlands and obviously he’s captained his national team on a number of occasions too. The calibre of opposition he’s faced when playing for Liberia really is impressive. He’s so committed to playing for his country and he knows that he has to be in excellent club form for that to continue.”

For Head Coach Martin Nash, his new signing brings plenty of professional minutes to the table and provides some flexibility too.

“Brem is an exciting acquisition for us,” Nash says.

“There’s a wealth of experience across some very competitive environments in Europe and he’s inching closer towards a decade of pro playing time overall. For a player in his mid-20s, that’s impressive pedigree. He’s already captained his country and led them into some huge games, which says a lot about his qualities on and off the field. As well as being a very strong and capable centre-back, he boasts experience playing slightly higher too. And having some cover in different positions is never a bad thing, especially in our league.”

Soumaoro, who has played against another of York United’s off-season signings, Lassana Faye, can’t wait to get started.

“I’m really happy to sign and just want to pull on the shirt now and impress our fans,” he says.

“I saw this as a great step for me to grow. From speaking with the club, it became apparent it was a wonderful move for me. It’s always always nice if there’s a plan presented to you so I’m excited for this next chapter to begin.”