The Brothers Amanda: Edmonton’s Other Soccer Cinderella Story
Their family fled civil war, and their soccer careers flourished once they came to Edmonton.
By Steven Sandor | June 10, 2021
The story of Gloire and Prince Amanda is about far more than two brothers who are very good soccer players. It’s about more than Gloire becoming the first-ever Canadian male to win the MAC Hermann Trophy as American college soccer’s player of the year. It’s about more than Prince playing his first professional game in his adopted home city.
It’s about family. It’s about sacrifice. In the end, it’s about love.
When I speak to Gloire Amanda over the phone — he’s finishing up his exams at Oregon State University — I ask him what his parents mean to him. He takes a long pause, and then: “I can’t explain how courageous they are. They mean everything to me. I cannot thank them enough. I don’t think they really know how much they motivate me.”
Another pause: “I’m going to start crying.”
As a junior at Oregon State, he scored 15 times and added seven assists in just 14 games and was named the top male player in the NCAA. While we in Edmonton celebrate the over-the-top achievements of Alphonso Davies with both Bayern Munich and the Canadian national side, it becomes easy to overlook that there’s another fantastic soccer story that’s emerged out of this city.
As Gloire was on his path from Edmonton to becoming the top player in the NCAA, his younger brother, Prince, emerged as a young phenom at FC Edmonton. He scored his first Canadian Premier League goal in his first league game in October 2019. Before that, he turned heads as part of the FC Edmonton academy team at SuperCupNI, one of the world’s biggest U-17 tournaments in the world, held in Northern Ireland. The tourney featured some of the world’s top teens, and he was the Eddies’ top player, scoring three times. The little FCE team that could beat a stacked American regional team. Prince recalls watching Manchester United’s U-17 side and being inspired to show that he belonged to the same elite class of players.
FROM DRC TO CANADA
The journey was far from easy. Prince and Gloire are brothers in a family of eight children. Their parents, Mauwa Miebinge and Amanda Songolo, began raising their family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but fled because of civil war while Gloire was an infant. They escaped to a refugee camp in Tanzania, where Prince was born, before moving to Edmonton.
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>Gloire, now 22, was 10 when the family arrived in Edmonton. Prince was eight. That’s right, the family spent eight years in a refugee camp. When they finally left Tanzania for Canada, Gloire already loved the game of soccer; to Prince, it wasn’t part of his life, yet.
“When we came to Edmonton, we couldn’t speak the language, so at school I was really just a spectator,” says Gloire. “But soccer became the way I could express myself. We would play at recess, and it was because I was playing soccer that I could feel that I could speak to my classmates.”
“My parents brought me here when I was eight,” recalls Prince. “We were coming straight from a war. We were refugees. My first year here was hard. They were trying to find jobs and pay for everything, school, food. And, seeing how hard my mom was working to provide for us, that really showed me what hard work can do.”
Gloire quickly rose up the ranks in Edmonton youth soccer, and FC Edmonton took note, bringing him into the team’s academy, a place to prep young players for potential lives as pros or college prospects. Gloire didn’t stay long, as his play piqued the interest of the same Whitecaps team that plucked a teenage Alphonso Davies from Edmonton to Vancouver before selling him for millions to Bayern Munich. Gloire moved west to play with the Whitecaps’ academy team. If he wants to play in Major League Soccer, the Whitecaps still own his rights.
“I’ve made it clear that I want to play professional soccer as quickly as I can,” says Gloire. “I am 22, so turning pro would be a priority. I have spoken to my family about it, I’ve spoken to my coach about it, and I have their support.” For soccer players, the early 20s is already in the “late bloomer” part of the development cycle. Remember, top teams will regularly scout players in their early teens.
He says his preference would be to go back to Vancouver and sign with the Whitecaps. He’s familiar with the city and he thinks it’s the perfect spot to start his soccer career. But, at the moment, “there’s been no offer from them.”
Gloire just wrapped up his junior year. And winning the MAC Hermann is something he went to the United States determined to achieve. Three years ago, he wrote it down as the goal of his university career. So, what clicked in year three? His health.
“I think it’s maturity, and I’ve been healthy, as well,” he says. “Over the previous two years I dealt with injury after injury. So I had to get fit and stay fit. In that way, the pandemic really was a blessing in disguise. It delayed everything and it allowed me to get healthy.”
PRINCE PONDERS HIS FUTURE
While Gloire waits on a call from the Whitecaps, Prince is still a free agent. He has spent the previous two seasons with FC Edmonton. He’s been in talks with another Canadian Premier League side, but he’s also chatted with new Eddies coach Alan Koch.
“It’s taking a little longer than expected,” says Prince. “But the team I am in talks with has been having trouble talking with the league about my transfer. I can’t control that. I am going to have to wait… I’ve also been talking to Alan, he’s a nice guy. I’ve also been looking at the option of going back [to FCE], but I am still trying to lay out my options.”
Back in October of 2019, Prince was given his first Canadian Premier League start by then-FCE coach Jeff Paulus. Early in the first half, he rewarded his coach’s faith by scoring a highlight-reel goal and then following it up by providing an assist to fellow Edmontonian Easton Ongaro.
“It was surreal, especially since it was my first game,” recalls Prince of that blustery night at Clarke Stadium. “Going into the game, I said to myself that I was going to leave everything out there, and fortunately, I was able to score and get an assist. It was an amazing moment. You can’t make moments like that. All I remember is cutting across and shooting, I don’t remember anything after that.”
“To have the confidence, the discipline and the attitude to stay positive and wait for his moment is just incredible,” Paulus said at the time, noting that Prince had to bide his time before finally getting the chance to start in a pro game near the end of the 2019 campaign.
Paulus, who was instrumental in bringing both Amanda brothers into the FCE fold, was relieved of his duties after the team finished at the bottom of the table in a COVID-bubble tournament that replaced the 2020 regular season.
“Honestly, that’s mostly how soccer goes — people do come and go, even if you do your best,” says Prince. “I was close with Jeff, I really liked him. I wouldn’t say it was heartbreaking, but I do kind of miss him.”
But he’s looking forward to making more positive impressions in the CanPL, once a contract is sorted out. The league begins play in a Winnipeg-based bubble in late June, and then teams may move into their home stadiums later in the summer.
“The league has been great. It has been great for Canadians and for aspiring young players to become professionals. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, a lot of plans have been on hold. But, I am glad they’re still thinking of restarting and keeping the league going. For me, it has been really helpful seeing the professional environment and seeing my level compared to others.”
And, what does Prince have to say about his brother?
“He’s always been a big influence,” Prince says of Gloire. “He’s played the big brother role really well. I got my work ethic from him. Seeing him train, watching him doing his morning runs. All that inspired me to try hard and chase whatever dream that I had.”