July 30, 2014
By Steve Lewis - UConn Athletic Communications
STORRS, Conn. – Former UConn forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf (Dakar, Senegal) always had a strong working relationship with Connecticut men’s soccer coach Ray Reid during his four years in Storrs, but the current member of the USL’s Charleston Battery reveals a deeper connection to his old coach; one that goes beyond the game of soccer.
Growing up in Senegal, playing soccer was everything for Diouf. Having the chance to play at a top-notch collegiate program in America was a dream for the talented striker. When Reid came to Senegal to watch the future Husky play, it was the beginning of a father-son relationship.
“It started back in Senegal when he came to watch me play,” said Diouf. “I remember how intensely he watched me play.”
After agreeing to come to UConn, Diouf remembers Reid being especially tough on him in his freshman season compared to other players.
“He was always pushing me to be the best I could,” said Diouf. “I kept thinking that he hated me though. Every day if I did something wrong, he would ask me to do it again. Even if the other guys do the same thing, he would only go at me.”
It was only after his first collegiate season that Diouf, who ranks No. 14 in total points (82) in program history, realized that what appeared to be blatant criticism was actually encouragement and support.
“I realized he was doing it to make me better,” said the forward. “I felt like he was my dad.”
Reid recognized Diouf’s need for affection considering the close relationship he had with his parents in Senegal. The Husky coach was able to offer emotional support for Diouf in a way that even other coaches and players recognized.
“People would always say that Coach Reid was like a dad to me,” said Diouf. “He helped me to be where I wanted to be. After my junior year, I couldn’t leave because that relationship was more important to me than soccer.
The former Husky, who was drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps as the No. 30 overall selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, had the opportunity to leave after his third year. He was named to the All-Big East First Team and led UConn with 32 points, making him MLS-ready if he chose to go. He decided to stay.
His senior year was far from easy, dealing with a bad knee injury that caused him to miss seven games, but Diouf said he has no regrets about staying his last year. The relationship he formed with Reid was too meaningful to shorten.
“If I have a good dedication today, a big reason is Coach Reid,” said Diouf. “I still love him like my dad and our relationship is bigger than soccer. I have to thank him.”
During his college career, Diouf racked up 36 goals and 10 assists over four seasons. His best scoring seasons came as a sophomore with 13 goals and a junior with 15. He was twice named to the All-Big East First Team (2011, 2012) and he was selected to the Big East All-Rookie Team in 2010.
The former Husky gained national recognition in his junior season by being named an NSCAA Second Team All-American and finished his UConn career by earning American Athletic Conference All-Second Team honors in his senior year.
After being chosen this past January by Vancouver, Diouf was loaned to Charleston to get some professional playing experience in the United Soccer Leagues. He has been with the Battery since that start of the 2014 season and has received significant playing time, recording a goal and an assist through 13 games of action.
“When I came here, I saw a team that was already built up,” said Diouf about his Charleston team. “They had a team that has played with each other for a few years, so as a younger player, you have to put yourself in a good place. I came here at the start and I kept trying to play better and better.”
Not playing in Vancouver has been frustrating for Diouf, but he is confident that his hard work will give him an opportunity to play in the MLS when he gets called back up.
“I’m disappointed, but I can’t let that affect me because one day I will get my chance,” Diouf said.
He expects to rejoin the Whitecaps in about one month’s time at the backend of August, which was the timeline set by the Vancouver coaching staff when they talked to Diouf before his departure.
By the end of August, he will have played soccer in three different countries at the age of 23. When talking about his transitions from Senegal to the U.S. and now Canada, the forward admits some early hardship that was eased by the people around him.
“I want to play soccer, so this adversity was necessary,” said Diouf about moving to foreign countries for soccer. “When I came to Connecticut, at first, it was not easy, but I had great people in the community and the school to help me.”
Upon arriving to Vancouver in the preseason, the transition was much smoother. “People are really friendly and helpful here in Vancouver,” said Diouf. “There was never a problem. The guys, the coach, everyone was really nice and helpful.”
Big changes have taken place for Diouf over the past five years; changes that a weak-spirited person may not be so quick to adapt to. Through his relationship with Reid and his passion for the game of soccer, he remains unchanged through all of it.
“Be humble. It doesn’t matter who you are,” said Diouf about what he learned in his time at UConn. “That is something I learned in college and it’ll follow me in my life. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, you just have to be yourself, be humble, and respect people.”