Vancouver Whitecaps added their second designated player this morning and in the process, Mustapha Alasan Jarju made history.
Gambian Jarju’s signing has made him the first African designated player in the history of MLS. A momentous occasion for both the Caps and the League.
Known by his nickname Toubabo (which means “white guy”), Jarju joins Vancouver from Belgian First Division side Royal Albert Elizabeth Club de Mons, where his contract expired at the end of June.
The Gambian’s 21 League goals (or 22 depending on what site you check) were instrumental in securing RAEC Mons’ return to the Jupiler League last season and he scored the opening goal in the club’s 2-1 promotion final play-off game win against Waasland-Beveren in May.
Newly promoted Mons were keen to maintain Jarju’s services but despite offers from Europe and the Middle East, the lure of Canada and MLS, proved too great and Vancouver will certainly welcome Toubabo with open arms.
Jarju can play both as a striker and an attacking midfielder and although unknown to most over here, it would appear that he will provide a perfect partner for Eric Hassli and Camilo.
He is a proven goalscorer, with 62 goals in all competitions in his four and a half years in Belgium. With Vancouver struggling in the latter stages of many games this season, it is promising for Caps fans that 58% of those goals have come in the second half of games.
After joining from Gambian side Steve Biko Bakau, Jarju made his Jupiler League debut for SK Lierse on August 19th 2006 in the 2-1 away loss against SV Zulte-Waregem.
He went on to make 30 League appearances for Lierse that season, including one as sub, which was his debut.
He scored his first professional goal in his eleventh game for Lierse, netting the opener in the 23rd minute of the 3-2 home defeat by Beerschot AC on November 18th 2006.
Mustapha went on to finish the season with 2385 minutes of playing time and 9 goals, so pretty much a goal every three games.
Those goals weren’t enough to stop Lierse getting relegated and the 2007/08 season saw Mustapha play with the Club in Belgium’s Division 2, making 33 League appearances and clocking up 2829 minutes and 15 goals.
That performance saw Jarju earn a transfer back to the First Division with RAEC Mons for the 2008/09 season, where he made 32 League (3 as sub) and one Belgian Cup appearance, playing 2681 minutes and scoring 8 goals. Unfortuantely for Mustapha, he was with another relegated side.
That season also saw Jarju earn his first full international Caps for The Gambia, in the African qualifiers.
Having previously captained the Gambian under 17 squad, Mustapha made six appearances in 2008 for the full team, scoring in the 17th minute of his debut, in the 1-1 away draw to Liberia on June 1st, and getting another goal at home to Algeria two weeks later.
The 2009/10 saw RAEC Mons reach the Jupiler League playoffs but not earn promotion. Toubabo made 41 League (9 as sub) and 2 Belgian Cup appearances for the Club, playing 3045 minutes and scoring 9 goals.
He also made another international appearance for The Gambia, in the 5-1 friendly loss to Mexico in Germany.
Last season saw Jarju return to his previous form, and he had his best season yet in Belgium.
Exact figures have varied from site to site, but according to Transfermarkt (where we also got all the other figures from!), he netted 21 goals in 37 League games and 3153 minutes, and earned promotion.
None of those games saw Mustapha as a sub and he also scored his first professional hat-trick, in the 5-1 home victory against AFC Tubize on October 23rd.
The season also saw Jarju return to international reckoning, with two African Nations Cup qualifying appearances, against Namibia and Burkino Faso.
After a little dip in his career, Toubabo had a break out season and it looks like the Caps may have picked him up at just the right time.
The Whitecaps are still working with the League to see if Mustapha can make his debut for Vancouver against Real Salt Lake this coming Saturday.
Two days later, he will take the field at Empire against Manchester City on what will be his 25th birthday. Not a bad way to spend it!
Good news for Whitecaps fans is that Jarju is coming to Vancouver without major disciplinary problems! He was booked 18 times and sent off twice, in his four and a half years in Belgium. It will be interesting to see how he fares with the wild and wacky world of MLS refereeing.
From the moment the Whitecaps announced a “major player announcement” would be taking place today, fans and bloggers were scouring the internet for who it could be.
Having been tipped off that it was a West African forward who had been playing in Belgium, Southsider LWO was the first to join the dots and come up with Jarju’s name. So thanks to him for that and letting us get a head start on a thorough article on Toubabo.
On paper, it looks to be an exciting signing, but there is the question as to how big a gulf is it between Belgian Division 2 football and Major League Soccer? We’ll soon see.
The Whitecaps think very highly of him and watched him for two months before deciding to bring him to Vancouver as a Designated Player. He is also the current alternate captain of the Gambian national team.
His sharpness is there, but not having played since the end of May, his match fitness is somewhat lacking and the Whitecaps have indicated that his time will be managed accordingly to start with.
Jarju seems to be a young and exciting prospect, and one who will hopefully be at the Whitecaps for many years to come and be the trendsetter for future African DP’s to come to the League.
Welcome to Vancouver Mustapha. Now show us what you’ve got!