Senegal is living through dark times with the demonstrations that broke out on Thursday 1 June and left 9 people dead. The protests were sparked by the alleged rape trial of the current regime's main opponent, Ousmane Sonko. A crisis that looks set to last and which is having an impact on local sport, with events being cancelled this weekend.
Senegal is currently experiencing socio-political tensions that have paralyzed most sectors of activity. On Thursday 1 June, the verdict of two years' imprisonment in the trial for alleged rape and death threats against Ousmane Sonko, the main opponent of the government, sparked off scenes of violence in the country, mainly in Dakar, the capital. Demonstrations that have not spared domestic sport have not left the Senegalese sports community indifferent.
Wave of cancellations
Senegal woke up to a terrible hangover on Friday 2 June. The capital, Dakar, bore the scars of violent clashes between demonstrators and police. The scenes of urban guerrilla warfare added to the psychosis. In the evening, the first sporting events were cancelled. In a statement received by SNA, the Senegalese Rugby Federation informed us that the Senegal Cup final, originally scheduled for Saturday 3 June, had been postponed to a later date.
The women's D1 clash between leaders Dakar Sacré-Cœur and runners-up Sirène de Grand-Yoff, scheduled for Friday, has also been postponed until Sunday 4 June. Aïssatou Seck, coach of the Sacré-Cœur club, tells us the date is uncertain. Day 22 of the Senegalese football championship, which was due to resume this weekend after two weeks devoted to the League Cup, has been postponed. As have the national basketball and volleyball championships...
The Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) has announced that "due to socio-political tensions in Dakar", coach Aliou Cissé's press conference, scheduled for Friday at 10:00 GMT in a local restaurant, has been cancelled. "Instead of this conference, the list of players selected for the Benin-Senegal (17 June 2023) and Brazil-Senegal (20 June 2023) matches will be published on the official website of the Senegalese Football Federation (www.fsfoot.sn) at 11:00am on the same day," the statement said.
Concerns about the end of the season
The tense situation in Senegal is causing concern among the population, who no longer dare venture out into the open air, shops have closed and people's movements have ground to a halt. Leaders have opted for caution in such circumstances. "The situation in the country requires us to cancel this day. In such circumstances, you don't think about football, you think about life. We can't think about playing football when there are demonstrations, break-ins, deaths... We think first of all about safety, about being able to move around the country", said Amsatou Fall, Executive Director of the Senegalese Professional Football League (LSFP), contacted by telephone by SNA.
Demonstrations resumed on Friday afternoon across much of Senegal. They intensified in Dakar, the capital, and in Ziguinchor, the "capital" of the south. So much so that the handball championship had to cancel this weekend's match, according to Sambou Biagui, head of communications at the Senegalese Handball Federation (FSHB). "We were at the final hurdle of the season for the elite championship and the Senegal Cup. But also the D2 with a new formula," he says. We set out to finish the season in June.
A deadline impossible to meet in this situation of uncertainty in Senegal. "It will have a huge impact if the situation doesn't evolve positively, because it's impossible for teams from Saint-Louis, Diourbel and Ziguinchor to travel to Dakar. It will be difficult to finish on time. If the situation calms down, we risk rescheduling days during working days. Which is very inconvenient because in handball, we tend to have players who are at secondary school. In Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor and Dakar, we have student teams. That's why we wanted to finish the season before the final exams (scheduled for July in Senegal, editor's note)."
On the LSFP side, there is no need for alarmism with 5 games to go in Senegal's Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 leagues. The League Cup held its semi-finals last weekend. "We're waiting to see how the situation develops. Then we'll assess how we can minimise and control the impact of this cancellation as much as possible," explained Amsatou Fall.