Ismaila Jome is only 25 years old, but he’s more driven, passionate, and talented than most people his age. As we all try to navigate through the unusual year that is 2020, Jome is working hard to make sure that his club, his career, and his country are in the best possible situation.
In his first season with Austin Bold FC, Jome has started three of the club’s four matches so far. Over the weekend, the star left-back earned a place on the USL Championship Team of the Week for Week 7 after he played a massive role in a 4-1 win vs. RGVFC. He scored twice in the match and added an assist for Austin.
With the win, Bold FC sits just below the top two spots in Group D to qualify for the postseason, but Jome has high aspirations for the club this season. “The goal for the club is to go all the way and win the USL Championship. We all talked about that from the beginning and I just want to perform to the best of my abilities to help us achieve that,” he said. “So my goal individually is just to simply DOMINATE every matchup I come up against, making sure my side is locked down defensively and that the fullback and winger have a terrible night trying to defend my winger and I.”
It’s that balance of defensive work and offensive ability that makes Jome a special player on the left flank. “My job first and foremost is to be a lockdown defender,” Jome explained. “But it is very important for me to be able to help the team offensively as I have the skills to do so and that just adds to the overall threat of the great team we have.”
You could make an argument that Austin employs the best pair of outside-backs in the USL Championship, especially with their ability to get forward, with Jome and Jamaican right-back Sean McFarlane. Jome said, “It’s really fun playing alongside Sean. He’s been one of the guys I’ve got on with really well on the team and he’s a very good player. He helped me see more from a player perspective what coach wants from his fullbacks.”
“We can always exchange information with each other on different nuances of game situations. Also, teams are gonna have a nightmare trying to defend either of our sides, so it’s great being on the same team.”
Before arriving in the Texas state capital, Jome played for Nashville SC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, and Minnesota United, before and after their move to Major League Soccer. “It was a challenging experience for the whole club and individually adapting to a new league as well as new circumstances, but it was a great experience,” he said about transitioning from the NASL to MLS with the Loons. “I learned a lot about how to be a pro and the amount of work it takes to play at a high level consistently.”
He featured more than ten times for the club in MLS. Now that he’s excelling in the second division, how motivated is he to get back to the top league in the country? “One of my biggest motivations is maximizing my talents to be the absolute best soccer player I can be and to have no regrets when my career is over,” he said. “That goes hand in hand with performing day in and day out to reach my goal of playing at the highest level I can play, be it in MLS or overseas.”
Still only 25 years old with an impressive resume in multiple leagues here in the United States, Jome seems like he should be due for his first call-up to the Gambian national team. “It would be amazing to be called up by the Gambian national team. It would be a proud moment for me and my family. I haven’t gotten any indication of that happening yet, but I’ll keep working and will be ready if that opportunity ever presents itself,” he said.
He hasn’t had a chance to play for his native country yet, but he has some fond memories of the small African nation from before he moved to the United States. “I remember bits and pieces. I remember being a little kid playing soccer in the streets with my brother, going to the beach with my family, and even making drums with friends,” Jome recalled. “Gambia is special as it has wonderful beaches, joyful people, and fire food.” He hasn’t had the chance to get back to “The Smiling Coast”, but he hopes to soon once the world gets back to some sense of normalcy.
Just like a lot of athletes in 2020, Ismaila has much more than just his sport on his mind. After both of his goals vs. the Toros, he dropped to one knee and held his fist high into the Texas sky. With that powerful gesture combined with his posts on the cause across his Instagram, I asked Ismaila for his thoughts on Black Lives Matter, systematic oppression, and anything related. He delivered the passionate response you can see below.
“Black Lives Matter to me means the long-standing fight for equal rights for African Americans in the US and around the world. From the inception of the US in 1776 as the Declaration of Independence was signed, Black people were already seen as LESS THAN human beings. In the interpretation and eyes of the Founding Fathers of the Constitution, the Creator had not created Black people as equal nor were we endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People need to be reminded of that fact as uncomfortable and inhumane as it is.”
“Black people were enslaved, beaten, killed, raped, and subjected to the most vile treatment for hundreds of years. Many people refute this by saying that was in the past, that we are in a much better place now. Yes, we certainly are, but when seemingly every week there’s another horrifying piece of news of a Black man or woman senselessly being killed by law enforcement, how far have we really come? The system of oppression and racism didn’t suddenly disappear when slavery legally ended in 1865 nor did it when segregation ended in 1964, a mere 56 years ago.”
“I love the United States of America as it truly is a melting pot and it has provided and continues to provide opportunity for people from all walks of life. With barely any money in his pocket but hustle in his heart, my father worked to make the means to bring my six siblings and I along with my mother to the US from Gambia. The US gave my father a platform to build a better life for his family as it has for countless families. It is a great country and I am proud to be an American as many people are and should be. I’m also aware of the terrible enslavement of my people that created this great country and it burns my soul with a fiery passion that my ancestors were put through hell. I am forever proud to be a Black man and will stand up to continue the fight my ancestors started. Two things can be true.”
“The Black Lives Matter movement is not a violent movement to try to destroy this country which has tried to destroy the Black soul. It is a movement continuing on from the Civil Rights Movement to bring long-overdue change. To finally eradicate a deeply rooted system of racism. I don’t know exactly how that will come about as I am continually educating myself on our history and the solutions. I do know it is not just up to Black people because if it were, equality would have been achieved a long time ago. To summarize what Jay-Z said, Rosa Parks sat so MLK could walk, MLK walked so Obama could run and Obama ran so that we could fly. It is up to all of us to fly. To be educated on the human issue that is racism. To fight racism in every subtle conservation, at home, in the office, and in every context treating it as a fire that needs to be put out immediately. Individuals must educate themselves on elected officials and vote to put people in power that will bring about real change in laws that will balance opportunities for Black people socioeconomically.”
“I’m reading this book called “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Harari and it discusses the biological ascension of our species, Homosapiens. It talks about how the evolution of humanity was and is shaped in a huge way by essentially our capacity to create ideas, laws, norms and cooperate by the now billions to create our reality. I say that to say, if we ever want to get to a place whereas MLK famously stated, men and women are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character then we must create and fight for that to be the norm in society. To be the human reality. Everywhere.”