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Behind the ball: Hamady Diop

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Aralynn Minnick // Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson defender Hamady Diop (5) is originally from Dakar, Senegal, and was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2023 MLS Draft.

Former Clemson defender Hamady Diop is perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the world of college soccer right now. Diop helped lead Clemson’s 2021 team to a national championship title, playing all 90 minutes of the matchup to secure the ultimate victory. 

After playing this past fall for the Tigers, Charlotte FC selected Diop first overall in the 2023 Major League Soccer draft. Despite just now appearing on the professional stage, his statistics and accolades are already well-known. 

Diop sat down with Grace O’Donnell, assistant sports editor of The Tiger, to answer some questions about his personal life to explain the man behind the ball.  

Grace O’Donnell (GOD): Tell me about your childhood — where did you grow up, and how did you become passionate about soccer?  

Hamady Diop (HD): I grew up in Dakar, Senegal. Let’s see — I got into it mostly because my dad and I played together since I was a kid; that’s the first memory I have. My dad played for a team back home, I don’t remember the name, but he was definitely why I became so passionate. 

GOD: You haven’t been back home since last summer. How do you manage the rest of your family being halfway across the world?  

HD: It was hard in the beginning to find things to do besides play soccer. I came here when I was 14; I was in a boarding school in Florida. I love soccer that much that I was ready to leave home behind at a really young age. You never really find something like your family, but you get used to it with time is really the only option. 

GOD: Outside of soccer, what’s one thing you want people to know about you? Do you have any hobbies/passions that are important to you?  

HD: I am actually a very good student. That was the priority to my parents — being good at school. I am very proud of how I work in school and have always worked hard. My favorite subject changes. I used to like history a lot, but then I took my hardest class ever and didn’t like it as much. I missed a lot with travel. We would go to class once a week at max, but I like learning a lot. 

GOD: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life? Think outside of awards and championships — what is the legacy you hope people remember you for later in life?  

HD: I want people to remember me for how far I have come. I have made many choices to get here, and I did it by myself. I didn’t get put in academy; I put myself in the academy. There was one day, one of my friends from home was in academy, he was always coming and going back and forth. One day he was leaving for his academy, and I just left with him, and the coach was willing to let me play a little bit. My parents had thought about it, but school was always more important. So I went through tryouts, and the coach saw potential in me, and I did that myself. So, I would say just the choices I made that got me to Clemson and now here in Charlotte. 

GOD: There is a lot of mental pressure which comes with such a VIP status — how do you handle this, and what do you do to decompress?  

HD: Enjoying what I’m doing. We can see the news, unfortunately, and the game can be taken away from you. Just focus on the present and not what someone else is saying because there is only so much I can do about someone else’s opinion. Not really change what you’re doing; just obviously do it better. The pressure is mostly what do you think of yourself, and as long as I think I’m good, then I’m good.  

GOD: What’s your favorite pop culture stuff right now — movies, book series, songs?  

HD: Oh, good one. I’ve always liked Drake’s song “Do Not Disturb,” and right now my favorite movie is the second Black Panther movie, “Wakanda Forever,” that came out like three weeks ago — it’s so good.

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Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
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