Danso's Journey from Gambia Gives Him Great Home in Portland
For Mamadou “Futty” Danso, 2010 was a huge year with Danso establishing himself as one of the most solid defenders in the USSF D-2 league. Leading the team back line with 1,825 minutes played, the season highlights included scoring the game-winner against fellow MLS 2011 expansion side-to-be Vancouver Whitecaps, giving the Timbers their first victory in Vancouver since 2004. Finishing the season with a call-up to the Gambian National Team for African Cup of Nations qualifiers, Danso was signed last week along with three other players to be part of the Timbers inaugural MLS 2011 campaign.
Calm and collected, Danso takes much of it in stride.
“It all comes down to the coaching staff, the owners, and they have a lot of trust in me and believe that I can do it, said Danso. “It’s a good feeling to know that the work you put in in the previous season turned out to be a good season for you to convince the coaching staff and the owners for them to make that jump with you.”
VIDEO: Learn the story of the name "Futty" in Danso's 1v1
Growing up in Gambia, Danso had dreamed of playing in Europe. His father, a headmaster, insisted that he get an education and so it was that Danso came to the United States first to play for North Carolina Wesleyan College and then later transferring to Sothern Polytechnic State University. After a short stint in the Premier Development League, the Timbers first signed Danso in 2009. His solid play helped cement the back line in their USL Commissioner’s Cup-winning season. Among his other intangibles, Danso also brings an ability to reach out and lead with a helping hand to new players.
“I can see myself doing that with a lot of young players, especially foreign players that are not very comfortable and just moving out of their country,” says Danso.
“I would say a good example is Kalif Alhassan. He was not very comfortable when he just got here [this past season from Ghana]. I feel like it was my responsibility to give him advice and make him feel like he’s still at home and that everyone on the team is his own brother.”
Given Alhassan’s late-season excellent play and the fact that the team also decided to invest in the promising midfielder for the jump to MLS, Danso’s assistance seems to have paid off. Before leaving for Ghana for the holidays, Alhassan told Danso how excited he is to continue to be a part of the team.
Danso’s calm demeanor belies his strong desire to succeed. Never one to sit on his laurels, he is more than ready to keep working hard.
“You can never stop working on what you need to work on,” he said. “People say you can never reach your goals. You just have to keep working and working. If you feel like you reached your goals, you still see more in front of you that you want to go get. I’m just going to keep working harder and harder and continue to put in good work.”
With all this drive, talent, and a successful personal 2010 campaign, Danso had a decision to make. Should he continue to play in Portland and the United States or does he move on to Europe or elsewhere? Danso’s take on the situation:
“After talking to most of my friends and coaches, I feel like with Portland, I have a lot of good friends that I can connect to. After all, it’s not just about where you’re playing and how much money they are going to pay you,” reflected Danso. “It’s about your friends that you are connected to because in the long run, those are the ones that count in my life. Friends and family."
Playing in front of the Timbers Army doesn’t hurt either.
“The fans are unbelievable,” Danso said. “It’s one of the best group of fans I’ve ever played in front of. So it’s always exciting just to come out of the tunnel and hear the fans going out. It’s exciting for every player that can come to Portland.”
Says Danso, “It’s a good fit for me.”