Professional Football Player
Souleymane "Sol" Bamba is a professional association football player who plays for Scottish Premier League club Hibernian.
Bamba started his career in his native France with Paris Saint-Germain, but failed to establish himself in their first team and moved to Scotland to join Dunfermline Athletic in 2006. Two years later he was transferred to Hibernian.
Born in France to Ivorian parents, Bamba represented the Ivory Coast in the 2008 Olympic Games and has since become a regular for the full national side.
Bamba began his career with Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 14. Despite impressing for PSG's youth and B teams, he only played in two first team games, in his final year at the club. A dispute with the PSG manager, Vahid Halilhodić, caused Bamba to leave the club.
After an initial trial period, Bamba signed for Scottish Premier League side Dunfermline Athletic in July 2006. During his short trial he came on as a substitute in a pre season friendly against the La Liga side Osasuna and made an instant impact, his enthusiasm and passion for the game shining through. After an array of fully committed challenges, and a narrowly-missed thundering 30 yard strike, he became an instant hit with the East End crowd and cemented his move to the club.
Throughout the course of the 2006–07 season Bamba continued to impress with his no-nonsense, fully-committed defending style and enthusiastic approach to every game. Bamba was part of the squad that reached the 2007 Scottish Cup Final, but were also relegated from the Scottish Premier League. Bamba signed a two-year contract extension at the start of the 2007–08 season. His performances were less impressive in his second season.
In July 2008, Bamba was allowed to go on trial with English Championship side Watford, appearing in a friendly for them against Boreham Wood. At the end of July, manager Jim McIntyre said he expected a fee to be agreed between Dunfermline and Watford, and for Bamba to move to the Championship side soon. Although the deal was thought to be almost complete, Watford pulled out for unknown reasons. It was reported on 1 September 2008 that Dunfermline had accepted an offer of £50,000 from Scottish Premier League sides Hibernian and Motherwell.
Bamba returned to the Scottish Premier League with Hibernian, who paid Dunfermline £50,000, and agreed to play a friendly match against Dunfermline the following year. The player himself signed a three-year deal with Hibs. He was sent off on his debut for a second bookable offfence against Dundee United, but Bamba has since established himself in the Hibs first team. Despite being a natural centre back, Manager Mixu Paatelainen praised Bamba's contribution as a defensive midfielder in the 2–0 win against Celtic in December 2008.Paatelainen commented further that he believed Bamba had improved as a player since his spell at Dunfermline, due to not going to ground when making a challenge. Bamba quickly became a popular player with the Hibs support due to his tough and committed tackling in his new defensive midfield role.
New manager John Hughes moved Bamba back to a central defensive role after the sale of Rob Jones in the 2009 close season. In his second match in this position, Bamba scored his first ever professional goal in a 3–1 win against Falkirk on 22 August. Coincidentally, he scored his second goal for the club at the same ground against the same team and in another 3–1 win, on 27 March. The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 8 May 2010 that Bamba's performances had "not gone unnoticed", with scouts from Fulham and Rennes due to watch Bamba. Sven Goran Eriksson, the new manager of the Ivory Coast national team, was also due to watch Bamba ahead of the 2010 World Cup, but was not spotted at the last game played by Hibs in the 2009–10 season.
Although he was born in France, Bamba represents his parents' homeland of Côte d'Ivoire. He featured in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, the 2005 African Youth Championship and the 2008 Toulon Tournament. Bamba was part of the Côte d'Ivoire squad that reached the quarter-finals of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Bamba won his first cap at full international level in a 2008 friendly match against Israel, and his second cap as a late substitute in a friendly against Turkey. Bamba made his competitive debut in a 5–0 win against Malawi in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match, again as a late substitute. This match was played in the aftermath of the Houphouët-Boigny Arena stampede, which killed dozens of Ivorian spectators. Bamba became a regular in the national team as they qualified for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Bamba scored his first goal for the team in a friendly against Rwanda, as part of the squad's preparation for the 2010 African Cup. He played in all of Ivory Coast's matches at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, but the team suffered a disappointing quarter-final defeat by Algeria after extra time. The tournament had been played in the shadow of the shooting of the Togo team bus, with death threats also being made against the Ivory Coast team.
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who had worked with Bamba at PSG and given him his first appearances at club and international level, was sacked after the tournament. The new Ivory Coast coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, selected Bamba in his provisional 30 man squad for the 2010 World Cup on 11 May.