Professional footballer Sam Gardner makes international moves
Samuel Gardner is a Canadian / South African professional soccer player born in Toronto, Ontario.
Gardner made a name for himself in the football world during his decorated college career. Gardner began playing Division I soccer for the Jacksonville Dolphins in Florida, where he would be instrumental in his team’s success for three seasons. In his final year, Gardner would transfer to Grand Canyon University in Arizona where he would showcase his skills.
After leading the baseline to 9 clean sheets, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists, Gardner was named to the 2018 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) All-Conference squad. The accolades didn’t end there as Gardner was also named to the WAC Tournament All-Star Team for his key role in the first-ever Grand Canyon WAC Men’s Football Tournament Championship. His performances further led his school to their first appearance in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament. The tenacious 6’4 center-back played every minute of every game and caught the attention of many professional teams across North America.
He would make his professional debut in 2020, playing for FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League. Gardner would be substituted in the game after his starting center-back suffered an early injury and his performance would help his side come back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 2-2.
Gardner’s career so far is as exciting as it is inspiring. Perhaps the most influential moment of his career is soon to come, with plans to take his talent overseas and play professional football in South Africa. We had the chance to talk to Sam Gardner about his potential move and ask him some of the most anticipated questions following his decision.
What factors influenced your decision to leave Canada and play abroad?
Even when I was in school, I had clear ambitions to try to play professional ball abroad. I like to discover new cultures and the possibility of playing football at the same time has always attracted me. I ended up signing my first pro contract with FC Edmonton here in Canada and got to make my professional debut, which was a great experience. While playing in Canada at the highest level has always been a dream for me, the professional soccer environment in North America is still in its infancy, and I believe that gaining experience in a more developed league at the international scale will be more beneficial to my career at this time. That being said, I would still love the opportunity to return to North America after gaining more professional exposure and experience.
Of all the places, what attracted you to South Africa?
My family is of African descent; my mother was born in Zambia and my father was born in South Africa. I am proud to be Canadian, but I am also very proud to be South African. My whole family is still there. I have spent many years of my childhood traveling between South Africa and Canada and would love to have the opportunity to give back to a community that has practically uplifted me and given me so much.
With the move abroad, what do you hope to accomplish in your football career?
I just want to focus on improving year after year and hopefully helping my team win trophies. I always believed that I had a very high cap in terms of being able to continually improve my game and I think this environment will allow me to do so. Off the pitch, I intend to develop a foundation where I can give back to the community through youth initiatives by providing children with what they need to play football and create their own legacy.
What value do you think you bring to an international team?
Throughout my time playing in America and Canada, I have built a reputation for being a leader on the pitch. I’m calm on the ball and read the game well. The South African teams can move the ball very quickly and I believe my technical and tactical skills will contribute to the success of my team.
What challenges will the new environment bring?
I’ve watched a lot of South African football and talked to agents there so I know it’s going to take some adaptation. I’ll have to get used to the pace and prove myself in a championship where I have little or no reputation. I plan to stay healthy and focus on the controllable things in order to present the best version of myself.