(Image Courtesy of Sacramento Repbulic)
Mawolo Gissie, nicknamed Gabe, has always dreamed of playing professional soccer, and at 17 years old that dream was realized when he signed a contract with Sacramento Republic FC of USL PRO.
The decision to join Sacramento Republic meant that Gissie would leave the New England Revolution’s Academy program and forgo a training stint with the first team. Gissie, however, was eager to begin the next chapter in his life.
“It was kind of awesome that I was going to sign with this team,” Gissie explained. “I love the city and the fish and the water.”
The deal was brokered by Cleiton Bernades and Ana Barcellos of Soccer Sport Network (SSN), a global agency that represents players like Keon Daniel and Gilberto Dos Souza Jr., both of the Philadelphia Union.
The agency first took notice of Gissie when he was 15, but a contract didn’t come until a year later to allow Gissie and his family some time to process the magnitude of the decision. Signing with the agency could open up new professional opportunities, but it would also make Gissie ineligible for college scholarships.
“We gave all the things to the parents that explained to them how difficult it is to sign an agency contract because of the eligibility to go to college,” SSN Vice President Barcello commented. “We know the responsibility. We wouldn’t do that unless we were sure that this guy could make it to the pros.”
Although Gissie ultimately signed with SSN, he stayed with the Revolution Academy while his agents explored professional options. In June 2013, Gissie received an offer from a club in Japan. Bernades and Barcellos met with Bryan Scales, Revs Director of Youth Development, and Michael Burns, Revs General Manager, to discuss the offer.
“We told them: look, we got offers for our players,” Barcellos recalled. “If they come for us, and if we see that they have the talent for that, and if we have the opportunity and we want the player to take advantage of this opportunity, we’re going to go for it. So, what do you guys want to offer Gabriel Gissie at this point?
“At that point, we had to hear that he was not ready, that he is not prepared for such a level,” Barcellos continued. “[They told us] if you guys want to take him out of here right now, do as you wish. This is what we heard, last June 2013.”
The deal in Japan wasn’t right for Gissie because it required relocating his family and playing in a foreign country. A more fitting opportunity came later in the form of an offer from Sacramento Republic.
Sacramento, who will play their inaugural season in 2014, offered Gissie a contract that included free housing and food. Furthermore, signing with the team would put him under the supervision of a knowledgeable coaching staff with a number of soccer veterans.
Graham Smith, formerly a member of the Board of Directors at Chelsea, is the team’s technical director, and Predrag “Preki” Radosavlijevi, formerly of Chivas USA and Toronto FC, will control the sidelines as the head coach. Both individuals have extensive experience developing young players.
“The directors and everyone in there know what a player can do at 17 years old,” Barcellos noted. “They have ways to take this kid even higher. With MLS or not, this kid is going to fly, I’ll tell you. Sacramento is the place that really believed in him at 17 and has the right people.”
Still, leaving the Revolution’s organization was difficult for Gissie since he was part of the academy system for three years and once dreamed of playing for the first team. Gissie is thankful for the time he spent with the Revs because of the people he met and the skills that he learned.
“It was pretty good learning how to play the game quicker, much faster, much more technical with the ball,” Gissie stated. “So that was good for me to experience.”
Barcellos echoed Gissie's thoughts by saying that the Revs have the best academy in the United States. She also said that although Gissie might eventually make the move to MLS, Sacramento is the ideal location for him right now.
“MLS has a lot to offer, but Sacramento has a lot more to offer him right now,” Barcellos said. “This is what Sacramento did, they took the guy from the dust and they are raising him again.”
Gissie has now relocated to the Sacramento area, leaving his family and living with a guardian. Soon enough, he will begin training and experience the grind of professional soccer firsthand. For now, Gissie is happy to be living his dream.
“My goal in soccer is just to reach up to the highest level,” Gissie said. “Now my dream has come true.”
The Revs, who will continue to list Gissie as a homegrown player, wish him the best of luck in his pursuits.
"We were very surprised by the path Gabe and his family chose to take and hope he does well in this situation," Burns remarked.