Join U SPORTS Conversations on February 27 at 7 p.m. ET as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. The event will be hosted by Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant. Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
A solid foundation drives Ismail Sow to succeed in the classroom and on the playing field. It has always been in him to value the little things, and having a strong support system is something the fifth-year University of Montréal soccer player does not take for granted.
The student-athlete life is not the easiest, but the busy days can help with developing skills such as preparation and time management. Sow, an Ottawa native of Senegalese descent, is trilingual and can relate well with individuals from different nationalities.
“I think I am very lucky to be at the University of Montréal because we have students that come from everywhere. I have been on teams here where the majority of the guys were of African descent,” said Sow.
Soccer is arguably the most diverse and popular sport in the world, and Sow has seen many faces from different backgrounds as he is the veteran on the team. In his earlier years as a freshman and sophomore, a high percentage of the team was African, and over the last three years, the Carabins have become more multicultural.
“It’s clutch because you can depend on somebody to have hair products or moisturizing creams. Also, I believe it is essential to get to know my teammates and their heritage because we are around each other all the time,” Sow said.
Family comes first for Sow, and his younger brother Kareem also chose to attend Montréal to be a Carabins. Not everybody has the luxury of playing with their sibling, an opportunity Sow and his brother did not want to pass up.
“It is the greatest experience; I feel so blessed to have had this. When we were younger, we always spoke about playing together, but it never really happened since I am two years older than him. Since he joined us here, we got to play three years together, and I get emotional thinking about it,” Sow explained.
The Carabins ended a terrific season, winning 12 games and only dropping two contests. The Montréal team won the RSEQ championship in October and took home a bronze medal at the U SPORTS national championship a month later.
“We played our last game together in November at nationals; I had tears in my eyes. Both of us play centre-back. We are beside each other all game, he is my partner,” Sow said.
The brothers picked up soccer at a young age. They enjoy watching old home videos from when they were toddlers kicking around a soccer ball. Those precious times are heartfelt moments that hugely impacted their lives.
“Both of us got trained by our father, and he’s a super competitive guy—he coached us when we were younger, we all have that competitive nature in us,” Sow said.
"Ismail is a player that does anything to win and plays for the sole purpose of winning. You can witness his passion and commitment in every challenge he has on the field, it pushes everyone to do better."
Kareem Sow - Brother and Montréal Carabins centre-back
Receiving support from family is comforting for Sow as it keeps him grounded. His family consistently showed up throughout his soccer career, and Sow always felt unconditional love.
“My mom makes the trip to see our games every weekend, and if not, she watches them online, same with our grandmother,” said Sow.
As a leader on the team, Sow is vocal on and off the pitch and prioritizes sharing his stories during Black History Month. However, he wishes to see more genuine conversations and engagement from organizations all year.
“I believe Black History Month should be spoken about for the entire year, there is no reason it should only be talked about for one month. The issues do not only appear in one month, and we do not only have to tackle them in one month,” explained Sow.
Not all situations get the media attention they deserve. Sow, a future teacher, wants people to be aware of anti-Black prejudice and the ongoing challenges racialized communities face day-to-day, like advancing into positions of power or playing at a top level in sports.
Overall, Sow has cherished every moment as a U SPORTS student-athlete and would not trade it for any other experience.
“I am so glad I chose to attend the University of Montréal. The facilities, coaching staff and administration all are great. It is the best thing that ever happened to me. The city is amazing, I can’t say it enough how lucky I am,” said Sow.
The beautiful game of soccer has allowed Sow to express himself without compromising his objective; to win in all aspects of life.
Hear more from Ismail Sow on Monday, February 27, at 7 p.m. ET. Join Sow and other student-athletes, alums and administrators for U SPORTS Conversations as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. The conversation will be hosted by Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant.Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
Jordan Stoddart is a Centennial College sports journalism student. A former NCAA division 1 soccer player who has embarked on a journey in sports media. He has written articles on gocolts.ca and broadcasted games for various varsity athletic teams for Centennial. Stoddart is also a youth basketball and soccer coach for the city of Mississauga.