Sadio Mané: the Senegalese miracle who dribbled out of poverty and is champion of Africa

In just 160 minutes, Sadio Mané changed the bitterness that caused him to miss a penalty kick at the start of the African Cup of Nations final against Egypt for eternal happiness to sentence, also from the 12 steps, the first consecration of Senegal in this competition.

That’s how changeable football is. With two almost identical shots (strong right cross) and with almost three hours of difference between one and the other. The first was deflected with a great save by Mohamed Gabaski, one of the figures of the decisive match played in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The second was even more cornered.

With an iron mentality, Mané nor was he fazed by the great opportunity wasted so early. He turned around and repositioned himself on the field. As if he internally knew that he would have his revenge later. And there it did not fail.

Individually, the balance of the tournament was good for him. Author of Senegal’s only goal in the group stage (in the seventh minute of extra time he scored the agonizing 1-0 penalty against Zimbabwe in the debut), he suffered with his teammates in the apathetic 0-0 against Guinea and Malawi. With 5 points it was enough to win the disputed group B.

Already in the round of 16, it was the Liverpool striker who also opened the account in the 2-0 win over Cape Verde. And the one that sentenced the 3 to 1 over Burkina Faso, which put those led by Aliou Cissé in yesterday’s final.

I was born in a small town in Senegal called Bambali. He was considered the best player in town, but no one in my family wanted him to be a footballer. And I was totally convinced that when I left I could be. The only thing that worried me was how”, confesses Sadio in the promotional clip of the documentary Made in Senegal. And although absolutely all the good memories of his childhood are related to football, there was one specific event that marked his destiny forever.

When he was 10 years old, his country’s team made history at the World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002. In the opening match, Senegal defeated France, the reigning world champion, 1-0.. Papa Bouba Diop’s goal and the team’s subsequent great campaign (they lost 1-0 to Turkey in the quarter-finals) showed him that Despite the dramatic poverty with which he lived, a better future was possible just by proposing it.

“It was after that World Cup that I decided to be better and better. But my family had other plans for me. It was only when everything in my life revolved around football that I began to convince them to let me go to Dakar, the capital of my country. My parents never had money to send me to school.” Therefore, every day he played ball with friends. “I saw boys playing and I joined their games. When she grew up, she went to the court. Especially when the national team was playing. I wanted to see my heroes and imagine myself as them”, he shared. And he acknowledged:When I was young, I only thought about playing in the Premier Leaguethat I saw on television. That was my big dream.”

Mané was able to continue his life submerged in absolute poverty, and only playing soccer for love of the ball. But the miracle happened: a delegation from Metz passed through Dakar to recruit the most skilled players. Sadio went to try on, without telling anyone in his family. When the technician oliver Perrin He saw him play, he was amazed. He had a pair of boots in terrible condition and a pair of shorts that weren’t even for football. The scout was about to prevent him from playing in those conditions. But he finally put it on the court. A few minutes later he told her: “you stay you will play on my team”.

Senegal players celebrate with the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations champion trophy after winning the final between Senegal and Egypt at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon

He was asked to attend an academy called Generation Foot for two seasons. There he scored 131 goals in 90 games. That was the springboard to Metz, where he traveled without telling his family. One day in 2011, mom Satou received a curious call. “Hi mom. I am in France. I’m going to play in Metz. If you don’t believe me, you can turn on the TV and watch me.”

In the following season he emigrated to Red Bull Salzburg, where in his second season he scored 23 goals and scored a brace: champion of the Austrian Bundesliga and the 2013/14 Austrian Cup. Altogether they were 45 conquests in 87 matches.

His explosive speed caught the attention of an ideal football for his conditions: the Premier League. He signed for Southampton. And a year later he rewrote the books: On May 16, 2015, he scored the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history against Aston Villa. It was three goals in 176 seconds. The match ended 6 to 1.

Liverpool he rested his eyes on the Senegalese. And she acquired it in 2016, in exchange for 41,000,000 euros. Until today it has converted 107 goals in 244 official matches with the Reds. He suffered from the inside the 3-1 defeat against Real Madrid, in the 2017/2018 Champions League final. It was the night that the German goalkeeper Loris Karius gave away two goals.

Zinedine Zidanethe same one who suffered on the field of play that humiliating defeat against Senegal in the 2002 World Cup, I was following him and he was delighted with his performance in that match played in kyiv. There were even polls to add him to the merengue team. But soon Zizou slammed the door and everything dissolved… At least for now. Before the pandemic it was valued at 150 million euros.

A practicing Muslim, shortly after that encounter a recording made of him while cleaning the toilets of a mosque went viral. His humble and supportive gesture earned him the respect and praise of millions throughout the planet.

The following year he had his personal revenge. Liverpool was proclaimed Champions League championthe European Super Cup and the Club World Cup. 2019 could have been the best year of his professional life. However, the defeat against Algeria in the final of the African Cup of Nations was a thorn that stuck very deep and it was only yesterday that they managed to remove it.

Mané, world champion with Liverpool, in 2019
Mané, world champion with Liverpool, in 2019

On April 10, Sadio Mané will be 30 years old. They say that the changes of decades generate great changes in people. That balances are made for what has been done and new challenges are projected for what is to come.

Maybe, just maybe, the Liverpool striker’s next goal is to lead his team to Qatar 2022 and play in his second World Cup in a row.

For that, they must win heads-up (first leg on February 23, back on 29, at home) against… Egypt. Although it can also happen that the coin in the air takes a turn and those who celebrate today end the month with a grimace of frustration.

But there is nothing to do. That’s how changeable football is.