From childhood rebel to football superstar

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Liverpool winger Sadio Mané is one of the deadliest strikers around – a big draw for football fans as they prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN), where he will act as Senegal’s playmaker. A crucial element in Mané’s meteoric rise has been Generation Foot, a Senegalese club that has played a pivotal role in making the national team a powerhouse in African football.

Sadio Mané became the first Senegalese player to win the Premier League in Liverpool’s stunning 2019-2020 victory, as well as the first Senegalese player to score in a Champions League final the year before, and the first to score over 100 Premiership goals. . Can he become the first Senegalese player to lift the CAN trophy?

As Senegal kicks off their CAN campaign against Zimbabwe on January 10 – in the hopes of realizing their long-term potential, most famously shown by their victory over France in the 2002 World Cup – AXADLETM returns on the illustrious career of its captain and star. Mane.

During his childhood in rural southern Senegal, Mané, 29, quickly developed a passion for football. But his father, a local imam, forbade him to play. The young Mané fled to the capital Dakar to try his luck there – an aborted attempt that ended in a pact between him and his mother: that he could play football as long as he continued his studies and would stay. a good muslim.

At 15, the aspiring footballer left home again, this time with the blessing of the family. A talent scout spotted him playing in a local football tournament in M’Bour, 80 kilometers southwest of the capital – and the scout ensured that Mané passed tests in the capital.

“We were organizing tests in Dakar and my colleague from M’Bour had brought back his four best players; Sadio Mané was one of them, ”Jules Boucher, then recruiter for Senegalese club Génération Foot, told AXADLETM. “I made two teams for one match and I made Mané number 10; after a quarter of an hour, it was he who marked me the most. I quit the game. I said to my colleague: if this kid gets a good training, he will become a great player.

All the qualities that strike football fans today at Mané were present at the time: notably his ease with complex skills, his slashing pace and his incisive passes. It was Boucher who decided that these gifts would be better optimized by placing Mané on the left wing of the attack – a position he still plays at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Metz to LiverpoolGeneration Foot has played an important role in training young Senegalese talents over the years. It was created in 2000 by Mady Touré, who became an agent specializing in young African players after a playing career cut short by injury. Touré’s first big success was the cultivation of Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who transferred to Metz in Ligue 1 in 2001 for two years, before joining Monaco and then catching the attention of football fans from the world with his visits to Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham. Génération Foot’s links with Metz were instrumental in developing this pool of Senegalese talents.

After the implementation by FIFA of a regulation prohibiting the transfer of minors, Metz decided to “invest in infrastructure” and build a “real training center to keep players until they are 18”, club president Bernard Serin told AXADLETM.

Indeed, Metz has developed a vast complex to serve as a training academy, including new areas and even a boarding school.

Meanwhile, Generation Foot was rapidly climbing the ranks of Senegalese football after a modest start in the third division – in large part thanks to its young talents. Young Mané played a central role during his brief stay there, as Generation Foot won promotion to the second division. The club’s ascent then continued without him; he is now playing in the Senegalese first division, which he has won twice.

Mané immediately made an impression by joining Metz in 2011.

“His potential became apparent to us as soon as he arrived; I remember it perfectly – it was a game against Bastia in January, the way he cut the defense and got a penalty, ”recalls Serin. “It was extraordinary for someone who had just made his debut in European professional football; all the qualities were there. He only played about ten matches for us, but that was enough for him to be called up for Senegal.

Mané could have made Metz a locomotive of French football. But, alas, the club were relegated for the first time in their history that year. In a precarious financial situation, they had to sell some of their best talent to stay afloat. That same year, they also sold Kalidou Koulibaly, now a renowned force as Napoli center-back and – along with Mané – the linchpin of the Senegal national team.

“It’s a source of regret that we had to let them both go so soon; they could have really made the fans happy for a few years if we could have kept them, ”said Serin.

Austrian club RB Salzburg signed Mané for 4 million euros on the last day of the transfer window. The winger continued his remarkable rise there – quickly establishing himself as a powerful force, scoring 45 goals in 87 games, including three hat tricks. Mané finished the 2013-2014 season as the club’s top scorer, with 15 goals in all competitions.

Mané caught the attention of football fans around the world when he joined the English Premier League – the most demanding in the world – by signing for Southampton in 2014. The south coast club had established itself as a force of more and more powerful in English football; a pool of talent to grab elite clubs for exorbitant prices.

As Mané kept getting stronger under the bright lights of the Premiership – as evidenced by his 21 goals in 67 appearances for Southampton – he caught the attention of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Determined to make this legendary club once again the dominant force in English football, Klopp released € 36million for Mané during the summer 2016 transfer window. Soon the medals started to arrive, as Liverpool won the Champions League in 2019 and the coveted Premier League title the following year.

Pride in SenegalMané’s performance for Senegal did not slip as Liverpool flourished – as their national team advanced to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final. Senegal lost to Algeria, but Mané was able to console himself with 3 goals and an assist in 6 CAN matches – not to mention being crowned African footballer of the year 2019, in front of his Liverpool teammate Mo Salah. Yet Mané did not hide his desire to lift the CAN trophy for Senegal.

Mané has always shown pride in his Senegalese roots – as evidenced by the fact that he paid for an extension of his old high school, which he sent 300 Liverpool jerseys to his hometown after the Reds lost the 2018 Champions League final against Real Madrid, and his regular returns. visit Generation Foot, where one of the buildings housing the players bears his name.

The partnership between Génération Foot and Frenchman Metz continues to flourish – having recently cultivated talents like Ismail Sarr of Watford and Pape Matar Sarr of Tottenham. Despite the emergence of other Senegalese talents such as Dakar Sacré-Cœur and Diambars (both partners of Marseille), Génération Foot is keeping one step ahead.

“The partnership between Génération Foot and Metz has made it possible to improve the quality of Senegalese football,” Salif Diallo, head of sports at the Senegalese Press Agency, told AXADLETM. “Generation Foot is the backbone of Senegalese teams – and this is true for the generation to come too.

If Senegal can realize their dream and lift the CAN trophy this year, Generation Foot will be able to take pride in a large part of the merit.

This article has been translated from the original into French.

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