By Moshe Halickman
Who is Ismaila Soro? That’s the question that many Celtic fans have asked lately, after the Bnei Yehuda 21-year old midfielder signed with the Scottish champions on a 4.5 year contract worth 2.3 Million Euros. We’re here to answer the question by speaking about Soro’s time at the Israeli cup holders, as he arrives to light up the Celtic Park.
In January 2018, Bnei Yehuda, coached by Yossi Abukasis at the time landed a young 19-year old midfielder from the Ivory Coast valued at roughly 100 thousand Euros. He came to Israel from Belarusian outfit Gomel, which was the second team in his professional career after having played for Saxan in Moldova.
There are many angles we can speak about Soro from but we will begin with his unique personality. This past summer while Bnei Yehuda was getting ready for their first leg match in the Europa league third round against Neftci Baku, Soro received a devastating message that couldn’t be compared to anything else- his father had passed away.
Even though it was a massive tragedy, Soro decided not to tell anyone about the news because he wanted to help his club progress on the European stage as a game was scheduled for just 2 days after the incident. Soro waited to say anything until after the second game against Neftci, which ended 2-1 for Bnei Yehuda and in aggregate 4-3 for the Israeli team.
Bnei Yehuda didn’t advance to the group stages after being knocked out by Malmo, but Soro’s decision was a brave one that showed what kind of special player he is, a player who would give everything for his team.
Let’s now head back to Soro’s first days at Bnei Yehuda. The midfielder arrived in Israel in January 2018 to a positive situation with the team playing well having finished in the 6th place of the table. Due to the club’s success, Soro received limited minutes and featured in only 5 games in total as he acclimated to the country and the league. However, limiting his time benefited both sides, because Soro was already settled into the team’s system for the upcoming 2018-19 season. This opened many European team’s eyes as they saw something special in the short 1.73-meter defensive midfielder who can also play also as a central midfielder.
Soro played a huge part in Bnei Yehuda’s successful 2018/19 campaign as he helped the team finish in the fifth place in the Israeli league along with capturing the State Cup. The State Cup final was difficult for Soro as he was substituted off in the 30th minute following an injury. But his side was able to survive a penalty shootout to take home the trophy as the match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of time
Soro’s numbers at Bnei Yehuda were just incredible. He ended the campaign 13th in minutes played while he was sent off 3 times, the most red cards in the league. Interestingly enough, Soro had the same amount of yellow cards too. His physical game not only handed him a trio of red cards but he fouled opposing players 58 times, third most in the league. Soro ranked second in recovering balls in the opponent’s half (61) and had a tackle rate of no less than 2.6 per game.
But Soro’s most impressive stat were his successful dribbles- he’s completed 2.6 dribbles per game for a 76.4% success rate! Soro is also known as an excellent passer with a success rate of 86.4%. But don’t expect to get many attacking returns from Soro- he didn’t score a goal in Israel and assists were rare. This season most of Soro’s stats were similar in the 17 games he played, except the fact that he hadn’t conceded a red card.
Celtic coach Neil Lennon was very excited as he spoke about his second signing in the current transfer window after Patryk Klimala, “He’s a good player. He’s strong and technically very good, quick across the ground and hungry. We’ve done a lot of work on him and Klimala. It’s good to get some fresh faces in the building”.
Like Hatem Abd Elhamed, Soro was in a car accident this past summer, but luckily he walked away without a serious injury.
The timing of the transfer is great for both Celtic and Soro. Abukasis, who’s known as a coach who develops his players left the team for Hapoel Beer Sheva and Bnei Yehuda now under veteran coach Elisha Levy is rebuilding with new young players.
Soro is coming into a packed midfield with stars such as Scott Brown, Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham, so it will be huge challenge for him to settle in with the Scottish powerhouse under coach Lennon. This is a dream come true for Soro as he said in a past interview, “The moment I get to one stage, I think of the next step up. I’m a young player that targets to get the furthest that I can. I want to get to a much stronger league. It is one of my targets.”
The new Celtic midfielder will attempt to continue in the ways of Efe Ambrose, Nir Bitton, Beram Kayal and Hatem Abd Elhamed who all played for the Scottish club after arriving from the Israeli league.
After succeeding through the difficult challenges that he experienced this past summer, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he handles the challenges to come sooner rather than later with his new home at Celtic.