The Philmland Phaceoff event, which provides soccer players both locally and internationally the opportunity to go head-to-head in an online tournament format, is back and will feature a Baltimore-area face among its eight participants.
Mohamed Hymad Ndiaye, a 2016 Oakland Mills High graduate and current midfielder for the Baltimore Blast, is scheduled to be among the eight participants in the event which kicks off with the quarterfinals on Friday, Aug. 28. The tag line for the event is “It’s Time to Phace the Phacts” and this version of the tournament has been designed to “showcase and empower black athletes,” according to PhilmLand Founder and event host George Phillips.
Phillips has hosted two of these freestyle skills challenges online over the last five months and before that had organized three PhilmLand 24 Elite showcases — held at the Soccer Stop in Columbia — in an effort to provide exposure for local boys and girls soccer players.
“We were right in the middle of planning for our second girls event, our fourth one overall, when COVID hit and everything shut down. So I was obviously very frustrated, but it also kind of forced me to think outside the box and that’s how we came up for the idea for this,” Phillips said. “I wanted to provide something competitive in a tournament fashion with a little bit of inspiration from the movie ‘8 Mile’ and those kind of freestyle battles where they are going back and forth. I thought bringing something live like that at the time could be really powerful.”
The first Phaceoff event featured just four participants but it was so well received that Phillips decided to branch out and host a second event, with an international lineup, in June and now has this event scheduled for the end of August into early September.
The eight participants this time around represent seven different countries. There are seven male participants — Ndiaye (United States/Ivory Coast), Robi Mnasie (Eritrea/Canada), RJ Skills (United Kingdom), Noah Kofi (Ghana/Denmark), Stanley Gobians (Nigeria), Marc Kan (Ghana) and Quentin Bakouzou (France) — and one female — Dakota Russell (United States).
Ndiaye has the local ties, starring as a two-time All-County selection for Oakland Mills in Columbia before going on to play for CCBC-Catonsville. In his first season with the Blast in 2018-19, he totaled seven points in nine games and then last year he totaled 16 points (8 goals and 8 assists) in 20 games.
The format for the skills challenge tournament is simple. Players set themselves up remotely to film themselves and broadcast through the Instagram platform, having 30 seconds each to perform any dribbling and juggling skills they want. After the two players going head-to-head perform, a panel of judges then vote on a winner to advance in the bracket.
“Creativity is encouraged and ultimately it’s up to them to decide whatever it is they want to do,” Phillips said. “But I will say that I’m pushing all of them to do things in terms of ball control that can translate to the pitch.”
The event judges scheduled to participate are D.C. United defender Donovan Pines, Sky Blue FC defender Imani Dorsey and ESPN reporter Sebi Salazar. There will also be Crowd Choice awards handed out for each match-up, with soccer reporters Jenny Chiu and Claudia Pagan helping determine those winners who will receive an official champions’ league ball from Adidas.
Adidas is also providing shirts with the PhilmLand event logo on the front for all the participants.
In an effort to coordinate with the different time zones that the participants are in, the times for the live streams will vary. The two quarterfinals on Aug. 28 are at 6 p.m. and the other two quarterfinal match-ups on Aug. 29 will be at noon.
The action will continue with the semifinals on Sept. 5 and finals on Sept. 11.