In one year, Senegalese football has taken over all the men's competitions organized in Africa. It started with the African Cup of Nations (CAN), at the start of 2022, the first ever won by selection A. Then the beach soccer team won, in October in Mozambique, its seventh CAN (the fourth in a row) , before the local selection offered Senegal its first African Nations Championship (CHAN), a competition reserved for African players playing in their country. Finally, on March 10 in Cairo, the young Lions of Teranga beat Gambia in the final (2-0) of the AFCON under 20, winning for the first time in this competition.
This domination of Senegalese football on the continental scene is to be analyzed at two levels. The results of selection A are the result of a successful mix between dual nationals and players born in Senegal and who have continued their career in Europe. But as far as the CHAN team and the under 20s are concerned, it results from the training work done in the Senegalese academies or clubs. Moreover, four players (Lamine Camara, Pape Amadou Diallo, Djibril Diarra and Libasse Ngom) were aligned for the two tournaments and therefore won two continental victories in less than two months.
"Training has been one of the priorities of Senegalese football for years," explains Mady Touré. In 2000, this former professional footballer founded Génération Foot, a partner academy of FC Metz. It is within it that a certain Sadio Mané began his training before joining France to begin his career there. “In Senegal, Génération Foot, Dakar Sacré-Coeur [partner of Olympique Lyonnais] and Diambars are three academies that provide a lot of international players. The clubs have also made the choice, with fewer resources, to make an effort on training, ”adds Mady Touré.
Thanks to their correspondents in all the provinces of the country, academies and clubs quickly spot players with potential. "In the case of the academies, these young footballers are placed very early in the best conditions in terms of schooling, accommodation, medical care, nutrition and of course training and competition", specifies the founder of Génération Foot . The senior teams of these academies participate in the Senegalese professional championships (Ligue 1 and Ligue 2), so that the young players who are still in training are quickly confronted with the high level.
A promising new generation
“Senegal has a real breeding ground. The academies understood this more than twenty years ago and many clubs, which tended to focus only on the professional team and therefore the immediate results, are now more attentive to training, even if their means are weaker, in particular because they are not partners of European clubs", intervenes Youssouph Dabo, former coach of the under-20s and now coach of ASC Jaraaf de Dakar, the most successful club in the country. This one, as well as other residents of Ligue 1 (Pikine, Gorée, Guédiawaye…), thus have several internationals under 20 in their workforce.
The emergence of this new generation of players, some of whom are already playing in Europe – such as Samba Diallo at Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) or Pape Diop at Zulte-Waregem (Belgium) – is obviously promising. "It's not a guarantee because you can't read the future, but there is reason to be optimistic. We must not only remain vigilant and not relax, but continue our efforts, improve what needs to be improved, such as training infrastructure, and allow Senegalese professionals who play in the country to live decently from their profession, "analyzes Ferdinand Coly, 2002 World Cup quarter-finalist with the Teranga Lions.
His former teammate Aliou Cissé, who has been the A team coach for eight years, obviously follows this generation very closely. “Mané, Koulibaly, Guèye and the others are 30 years old and over, they are not eternal and you have to think about the future. In a few months, and maybe even before CAN 2024 in Côte d'Ivoire, it is to be expected that sacred players with the under 20s will be called up in A, ”assumes Youssouph Dabo.
Senegal's results and the reputation it has acquired in the field of training have earned it the status of an example in Africa. "I receive calls from several countries where our model could be imitated", confirms Mady Touré. The harvest of titles could also continue during the next CAN under 17, which will be played from April 29 to May 19 in Algeria. The Cubs will obviously be among the favorites.