MATCHS DU JOUR 13
Funded by the FIFA Forward Programme, national youth leagues were introduced in Senegal in 2020, with the stated goal of improving the competitiveness of young players and “preparing them for the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers”. Since then, these competitions, which have also been opened up to girls, have been in full swing right across the country, and the Lions de la Teranga won their first-ever Cup of Nations.
“Young people and girls are often left out,” said El Hadj Wack Diop, Development Manager at the FIFA Regional Office for West and Central Africa. “The technical and tactical work is there, and efforts are made by the clubs and academies, but overall they lack competitions. By creating this type of project, we encourage young people from diverse backgrounds to compete against each other. These events enable us to reinforce the work already done by the clubs and football academies.”
The competitions, run at U-15, U-17 and U-20 level for boys and U-15 and U-17 level for girls, are arranged in the form of leagues that are played throughout the year all over the 14 regions that make up Senegal. “It’s a real opportunity, even a dream, to be able to take part,” remarked Oumar Diop, coach of ASCE La Linguere. “The league provides the chance to play against other clubs, and consequently to discover other football cultures, and to gain experience. In short, to make progress.”
And with the increased level of competition come higher stakes. Of course, there are potential national titles to add to CVs, but there are also scouts from the country’s largest clubs to win over. “This league gives us the visibility that we need,” said ASCE forward Mohamadou Lamine Diouf. “We all hope to secure a contract with a big club one day, which will enable us to then help our friends and family. It’s our source of motivation; it’s what pushes us to keep improving.”
Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gueye, Pape Matar Sarr and Ismaila Sarr had the same dreams at one point, and they have all managed to transform them into reality. They are even on the verge of playing in the most prestigious tournament of all, the FIFA World Cup™. “We really hope that they can win it,” added Mohamadou. “The players and the coach, Aliou Cisse, have our full support, and we wish them the best of luck. And who knows? Maybe one day that’ll be us.”