Babayele Sodade is one step closer to walking in the Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Sounders FC forward earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic qualifying team after a short training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last week and will continue with the team’s 20-man roster at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament starting Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It’s everyone’s dream to one day represent your country,” he said. “It’s a big deal in a friendly, but in an Olympic qualifying match where there’s something on the line, it feels more prestigious.”
Sodade was taken in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft by Seattle after a successful career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Born in Maryland, he grew up in his native Nigeria before moving to Canada in his teens. He trained with the Sounders in preseason and earned a contract with the team.
During the Canadian U-23 training camp last week, Sodade impressed in a 1-0 win over Sounders teammate Cordell Cato and his Trinidad and Tobago side.
“We got a goal early in the first half and we held on. It was a good win,” Sodade said. “It showed that we were disciplined and organized and that was good for a team that had only been together for two days.”
In the second game of preparation, Sodade played in a substitute role in a 1-0 loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL. He had done enough though that coach Tony Fonseca included him on the roster for the CONCACAF tournament.
Canada joins El Salvador, Cuba and the USA in Group A of the qualifying tournament. They open against El Salvador on Thursday, then meet the US on Saturday and Cuba on Monday. The top two teams will qualify for the tournament semifinals March 31 in Kansas City.
Although Canada doesn’t go in as the favorites, Sodade knows, even while looking to make his international debut, that anything can happen in soccer.
“The US has the strongest team. But it’s a soccer match and anything can happen,” he said. “I like our chances of getting through to the semifinals.”
After the tournament is down to two teams in the final, both will be assured of spots in the Olympic games in London in July and August.
Even while away in Florida, Sodade was able to keep up with his club in their season-opening 3-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday.
“I saw David Estrada. Everybody saw him,” he said. “It was amazing.”