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Sports Features of Wednesday, 16 February 2022


African players must take cue from Senegal’s Sadio Mane’s commitment to football

Sadio Mane Sadio Mane

The dramatic aftermath of the 33rd African Cup of Nations in Cameroon to a global audience, validates the description of football, the “Beautiful Game”, as a passion, if not a religion, as some have put it.

Monday, February 7, Dakar went agog with, perhaps, a million men and women milling in the streets of the Senegalese capital to welcome the triumphant Lions of Taranga, the nation’s victorious Cameroun 2021-winning senior male football team.

As far as the eyes could see, down on the ground and up in elevated structures, Dakarois painted the city in the national colours of red, gold and green and brought traffic to a standstill.

Throngs poured out to hail the heroes of their first-ever continental soccer trophy. Leading a thrilled and thankful nation in acknowledging the feat of Coach Aliou Cisse’s gallant stars, President Macky Sall declared the day after his national team’s hard-fought win over the Pharaohs of Egypt in Olembe Stadium in Yaounde a national holiday.

That victory was delivered by the last penalty kick confidently struck by talismanic Senegalese star and Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane, into the tightly-guarded goalpost of Egyptian “Man of the Match” shot-stopper, Ali Gabal, Mane described the AFCON win as the “best day of his life”.

That he recovered from his early spot-kick miss and delivered the goal and the glory when it mattered most, to hand Senegal, on a 4-2 penalty tally, the trophy on their third time of asking, is one of the lessons of perseverance conquering all, offered by the 33rd AFCON Tournament.

But Mane has on a number of significant platforms spoken of his determined rise to global soccer prominence, from humble beginnings of torn boots and shorts on Senegal’s streets to a place among Africa’s soccer greats.

Speaking to a Ghanaian media outlet,, he revealed, “I was hungry, and I had to work in the field; I survived hard times, played football barefooted, I did not have an education and many other things. But today, with what I earn, thanks to football… I built schools, a stadium, we provide clothes, shoes, food for people who are in extreme poverty, in addition [to giving] 70 Euros per month to all people in a very poor region of Senegal.”

That he remains focused, modest and humble have made his achievements even more spectacular and inspiring. His maturity and sensitivity, consoling losing opponents, especially distraught Liverpool teammate, Mohammed Salah after his country’s loss in the final, has endeared Mane to many across the globe.

But one man who has, in turn, endeared himself so well to Mane, his teammates and their countrymen and to whom the 29-year old striker dedicated his Total Energies “Player of the Tournament” Award was the master tactician of the Senegalese victory, Coach AliouCisse.

Described by Mane as “The Most Criticized Coach in the World”, Cisse could be called third-time lucky. He missed the decisive penalty in the 2002 AFCON final against Cameroun as captain of an in-form Taranga Lions.

He was appointed Coach of his former team in 2015, tasked to redeem himself, as it were, and end the long wait for the Continent’s flagship trophy by a perennially highly-rated African football nation.

Harsh critiquing and incessant calls for his sack were rife and peaked when he had another near-miss in delivering the trophy – this time as Head Coach – at the previous AFCON in Egypt.

However, with patience, perseverance and undaunted faith in his ability to deliver matched with all the needed support and non-interference in his work as the technical and professional head of the national team by his appointing authorities over seven years, Cisse has finally handed his paymasters the goods ordered.

He has landed himself and his nation in Continental glory and global significance. What do these lessons signify?A lot, we can say.

For us back home, contrary to high hopes of ending our 40-year trophy wilderness, the outcome of the Continental soccer showpiece marked Ghana’s worst outing yet.

We crashed out in the preliminary stages, the last of our group with just a point. This abysmal performance for the four-time African champions, reckoned around the world as one of the Continent’s best, has given those in charge of football administration in this country – past and present – a rude awakening.

There’s been a shake-up in the Technical and Management Committees of the senior male national team as the nation prepares for a crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup play-off with arch-rivals, Nigeria.

A new Coach – German Bundesliga’s Otto Addo – and English Premier League’s Ghanaian-born coach, Chris Hughton as Technical Advisor, have been appointed.

The common thread that ran through a special GTV panel discussion on “Saving Our Passion”, Ghanaian football, featured four former GFA Presidents, namely – Nana Sam Brew Butler, LepuWuraAlhaji M.N.D. Jawula, Togbui Dr. Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe and Lawyer Kwesi Nyantekyi – hosted by veteran Sports Journalist Karl Tuffour and televised last Thursday was “non-interference” in the work of the Technical handlers.

If that insightful observation by the knowledgeable past football administrators is anything to go by, then the work of those in charge of delivering the high expectations of thirty-one million Ghanaians (most of whom are unofficial coaches), as far as football, the “Passion of the Nation” is concerned, is well and clearly cut out.