Mamadou Fall always knew he wanted to be a professional.
Like any other soccer-crazed boy growing up in Senegal, Fall quelled his insatiable itch to play any chance he could – even if that meant skipping school without his parents' permission. That was not a habit his father particularly enjoyed. Plus, wanting to make it at the highest level and actually having the capacity to do it are two vastly different ideas.
Fall’s talent at a young age became obvious, though, and he got linked up with a more serious youth team and got to take a couple of eye-opening trips.
He went to a tournament in France, playing against elite competition with his team around when he was 14 years old. Later, he got to train with Spanish club Villarreal and had a training stint with Manchester United set up that unfortunately fell through. Still, being in Europe, playing against contemporaries and vying for the dream of becoming a professional, made it all seem possible.
“I realized if I take this serious, I’ll be at the top in a few years,” Fall told MLSsoccer.com. “If I take this serious, people will be watching me play.”
People are watching him play in MLS for LAFC, a breakout rising star at center back with a disproportionately elevated knack for scoring goals in his young career, with five tallies already in 22 appearances.
Long before his MLS debut, his father was worried he wouldn't make it. He even told his son as much, directly. So Mamadou told his dad he'd get his name on the back of his jersey when he turned pro. That's why the back of his jersey reads "Mbacke" and not "Fall."
"He was telling me I was not going to make it, he said people usually don't make it," Fall said. "I said I'm going to make it. If I make it, I'm going to put your name on the back of my jersey, and I'll make you proud."
Mbacke is his dad’s middle name as well as his. People around MLS certainly know that name now. At 19 years old, the sky’s the limit for the Senegalese defender. At this rate, plenty more fans will watch him shine before long in Europe.