The time has come. Hassoun Camara has put an end to his career, the 33-year-old hanging up his cleats mainly due to an accumulation of injuries.
“I have been thinking about it for around a year now,” said Camara. “I have gotten quite a few head injuries over the course of my career. It intensified this year, and it was hard for me to reach the same level I did last year when I was defensive player of the year. I understood when discussing with the doctors that it is better to stop while you are ahead than to force the matter.”
This marks the end of an era for the Bleu-blanc-noir. The Frenchman is the Impact’s record-holder for minutes played in MLS, and has been an influential figure for the club since he joined in 2011, through his quality of play and his leadership in the locker room, particularly with younger players. It’s hard to imagine the Montreal Impact without him.
Hassoun Camara, now a household name of the club, had to work hard to become the player he was. When he first came to Montreal, it was only on an invitational basis. It was late January in 2011, and the Impact was a year away from joining MLS. The full-back was invited to a camp with 32 other players in hopes of making the team.
He did not know much about the city, back then. Born in Noisy-le-Sec in France to parents of Senegalese descent, he played his youth football with his amateur hometown club, Olympique Noisy-le-Sec, and then signed his first professional contract with Olympique de Marseille, in 2006. He also featured with Ligue 2 side SC Bastia until 2010, before boarding a plane and crossing the Atlantic.
“When I first came to Montreal in January 2011, I never thought I would stay here this long,” said Camara. “In the end, I achieved great things individually and collectively and I couldn’t be more proud of my time here.”
As history showed, he not only made the team after that first tryout, he would also win the Impact’s MVP award that year and earn a contract for the Bleu-blanc-noir’s first MLS season, one of the first players to do so.
Today, after living in Montreal for a few years, Hassoun often says that he is a Frenchman of Senegalese descent that was adopted by Montreal. The tall number 6 has really found his feet in a city he now calls his.
“I had an immediate bond with Montreal and its supporters,” said Camara. “I don’t know why it happened… Sometimes, things are hard to explain. But it was reciprocal. I have always been so proud to wear the Impact colours, but it’s not only that; I have really accepted and embraced the importance of Montreal’s and Quebec’s values. It came naturally, just by walking on the street, having discussions with supporters outside of the bakery or the fish market on a daily basis, and everyone was always so nice. It made me feel like such a Montrealer. I feel very lucky and would like to thank them for all the love they have shown for me.”
Now retired, Camara is intent on developing his entrepreneurial side. He already co-owns a restaurant, Osé, located in the Paris suburbs that specializes in African cuisine, and likes the idea of opening a franchise in Montreal one day. Camara also has a foundation in his name, whose mission is to collect funds and to give them to recognized organizations to improve the quality of life through education, environment, health, and women’s autonomy in West Africa.
No matter where the future takes him, one thing is certain; Hassoun Camara and the Montreal Impact will always be family.
“I’m so happy to have lived these moments,” said Camara. “I remember a sentence president Joey Saputo once told me: ‘don’t cry because it’s finished, smile because it happened.’ It’s the philosophy I try to have every day, to take advantage and show gratitude to everything that soccer has brought me, and I couldn’t be happier.”