Football: in Senegal, the hearing impaired take possession of the football

In the small group of players warming up, Issa Tall’s joie de vivre did not go unnoticed

Football: in Senegal, the hearing impaired take possession of the football

In the small group of players warming up, Issa Tall’s joie de vivre did not go unnoticed. Between the laughter and the friendly pats on the back of his partners, you have to hear him express himself through indistinct sounds to recognize “Issa Moumeu” (Issa the deaf), as he is affectionately called in the popular neighborhood of Fass , in Dakar.

If the central defender blends in wonderfully among his partners, it is because “he has done all his classes with them since early childhood”, says Sowrou Dieng, his coach at ASC Fass Delorme: “Our schools of football received children with all types of disabilities. I have personally seen other hearing impaired people pass through mine and there was no difference in treatment between children with disabilities and their peers without disabilities. »

If Issa Tall trains with the hearing players of a “navetanes” club, the Senegalese football championship, he is also the captain of the national deaf team and returns from a successful campaign at the World Cup in this category in Malaysia, early October. Senegal is in fact one of the 56 countries in the world which have deaf selections and the six African states which sent a team to the World Cup organized by the Deaf International Football Association. During the last edition, the Lions of Teranga recorded victories against teams like Argentina or the United States, before winning the bronze medal against Egypt “despite conditions not up to par. height", regrets their coach, Souleymane Bara Fomba.

Train the referees

What he means by this is that limited resources are deployed by the authorities to support the deaf Lions. However, this is not their first exploits. In 2021, the team became known to the general public when it won the African Deaf Championship, the “Deaflympics”, for its first edition in Kenya. When, a few years later, Senegal boasted of a series of continental trophies in the football of the hearing, some specialists recalled that the victorious momentum did not begin with Sadio Mané's teammates... but with the gang by Issa Tall.

“Deaf sport in Senegal has progressed in recent years,” assures Mamadou Lamine Diallo, secretary general of the Senegal Deaf Sports Association. But multiple challenges remain to be met: ensuring the regularity of competitions between deaf people, increasing the number of local clubs to allow players from regions other than the capital to stand out... To detect talent and prepare for the next World Cup, ten teams from different locations in the country competed against each other during a tournament in September. “We have a good succession and a huge pool of players,” says Souleymane Bara Fomba.

Abdou Aziz Dieng sees further. A sign language interpreter and former coach of Senegal during the 2021 African championship, he dreams of integrating the deaf into professional football alongside the hearing. First step: train referees to combine visual signals with audible alerts. An example ? “The central referee holds a whistle and a flag. Every time he has to whistle a goal or a free kick, he raises the flag at the same time, so the deaf players stop. » Optimistic despite “the absence of progress”, Abdou Aziz Dieng assures that such a reform would allow the deaf to “express themselves on the ground, express their talents but also abolish differences”.