Senegal’s Sadio Mane – a legend on and off the pitch
JOHANNESBURG – Senegal’s Sadio Mane celebrated his 150th Premier League appearance for Liverpool over the weekend, and although he can legitimately claim to be a footballing superstar – it is his work away from the field of play which has cemented his legendary status.
Mane’s arrival at the pinnacle of African football comes after an incredible and inspiring rise from the streets of Bambali in southern Senegal. He was 10-years-old when he saw his heroes, the Lions of Teranga (Senegal), appear at the World Cup for the first time – but he already had the football bug by then.
“There was big excitement in the country in 2002 during the World Cup, but it was already only football for me before that,” Mane told Goal.com. “When [my family] could see that in my head and my heart there was only football, I started to convince them to let me go to Dakar.”
A decade later he was wearing the national team shirt at the 2012 Olympics, before leading his nation out at their second World Cup in 2018 and the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2019, but it was far from a smooth ascendancy.
A teenage Mane briefly ran away from home to seek his fortune in the capital, while his first major try-out as a 16-year-old threatened to be overshadowed by his lack of kit.
"I did not look like a footballer,” he told France Football. “I was wearing pants that looked nothing like football shorts. And my football boots were completely shredded on the sides and had been repaired by me with wire the best I could.”
Thankfully, his dazzling talent was all the scouts were left remembering, beginning his rise to the top. He was a diamond in the rough with Metz in the French second tier, catching the eye of Red Bull Salzburg. Then, while in Austria, he almost got an early opportunity to link up with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, but the German coach passed on the chance.
Instead, it was Southampton in England’s top flight where he would find his early spotlight moment. Having scored 15 and created a further nine in 2015/2016 season – including the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history – Liverpool coach Klopp made him his first major signing.
These days, Mane earns a salary comparable with other global football superstars – but the 28-year-old has no need for flashy cars or flaunting his obvious wealth. Instead, he makes it his mission to help out the less fortunate.
"Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches, or two planes? What will these objects do for me and for the world? 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 can help my people," Mane told as.com.
"I built schools, a stadium, we provide clothes, shoes, food for people who are in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people in a very poor region of Senegal which contributes to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me.”
Mane has funded the construction of a school in Bambali, and a hospital which helped greatly in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
African News Agency (ANA)