Aliou Cissé of Senegal Prepares for World Cup

DIAMNIADIO, Senegal – Standing to the right of Senegal’s new national stadium, Aliou Cissé, the biggest fan of his own team, waved to 50,000 fans, cheering them on even louder Again, he signed dreadlocks bouncing on his shoulders.

The fans shouted, clapped their hands and blew their vuvuzelas at a louder sound. Minutes later, Senegal overcame its toughest rivals, Egypt, to qualify for the World Cup, which kicks off this November in Qatar.

“When we live together, Senegal wins,” the smile Mr. Cissé, 46, told a news conference later. Or, as he likes to repeat in Wolof, a national language, “Mboloo Mooy gagner” – “Unity leads to victory.”

If Senegal feels proud and free today, it’s very grateful to his national team – and to Mr. Cissé, a former professional who has redesigned Senegalese football and created what is now the best team in Africa.

“The barometer of Senegalese culture today is football,” Mr. Cissé said in a recent interview with the New York Times in Diamniadio, a newly built city on the outskirts of Dakar’s new stadium. “People watch us play and they enjoy being a Senegalese, an African.”

Cissé led the team that won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, the country’s first national title. In doing so, it proved to the Senegalese that one of them could accomplish the absence of the other.

European leaders have trained many African groups in the country, including Senegal, but that has changed, according to Mr. Cissé.

From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Sudan to Burkina Faso, an increasing number of African leaders are developing new cultural trainings on the continent. Sixteen teams now have local trainers, and three sub-Saharan African teams will travel to Qatar later this year – Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal – each with a national veteran as its leader. .

Ferdinand Coly, a former friend of Mr. “More and more professionals in the country want to be trainers,” Cissé said. “Local expertise has risen to the ground.”

Although Mr. Cissé maintained that European coaches did a lot for the African team, that time was gone.

Born in the South Senegalese region of Casamance in 1976, Mr. Cissé moved to France when she was 9 years old and grew up in the suburbs of Paris, one of the best lakes in football in the world.

It’s similar to many American players who grew up in Europe or joined the youth academies there. “When I left, I was French, but at home I was really Senegalese,” he said. Cissé spoke of speaking Wolof and following the family tradition while living in France.

Mr. Cissé joined the student academy in Lille, in northern France, at 14, and played in French and English associations in the 1990s and 2000s, including the French powerhouse Paris St.- Germain, Portsmouth and Birmingham City, who competed in the English top flight. League.

At the 2002 World Cup, he led the Senegalese team to participate in his first World Cup – an event that left France, the world champion at the time, in a state of shock that many still deals with warm feelings. Senegal reached the final quarter, the best team to date in the tournament.

According to the trainer, Mr. Cissé now appeals to two Senegalese who were raised in their homeland, and to those who immigrated to France when their youth were like him, to build a bridge between the “locals” and it “unites,” according to them. referred to the working group.

It has come a long way for success. When Mr. Cissé became a team in 2015, Senegal did poorly at the Africa Cup of Nations and failed to qualify for our last World Cup final. Cissé’s leaders were later fired.

Seven years later, Mr. Cissé, nicknamed “El Tactico,” for his performance but restricted to the game, will lead Senegal to his third World Cup and his second as coach. The moment when the African group was “guarded” too, he said, and one would win a congratulatory prize for the day.

“Why not us?” he said.

Régis Bogaert, former French youth coach of Mr. Cissé’s of Lille and now his leader of the Senegalese group, said Mr. Cissé has revealed the responsibility to his players. “It is making a lot of people want to be the next Aliou Cissé in Senegal and in Africa,” he said. Bogaert said.

Soccer, a national passion, is everywhere in Senegal, whether in youth education that promotes the future, or on the beaches of Dakar, the venue. construction of gaps and pitches dotting the city corniche along the Atlantic Ocean.

“Being a national team coach today is about becoming a politician,” said Mr. Cissé, who often reiterates that he lives in Senegal and thinks the country is in turmoil every day, unlike his players or foreign coaches who live abroad. . “It is about knowing the economy, culture, education and history of your country.”

His sense of humor and passion for fashion also helped with his passion: Mr. Cissé usually wore bright white sneakers and thick sunglasses, and she kept her dreadlocks in the New York Yankees or the Senegalese Squadron hat, giving her cool weather. father. He has five children, which makes it seem difficult to manage as a national team.

If Mr. In 2002, 11 people were missing in a shipwreck that killed more than 1,800 passengers off the coast of Senegal and the Gambia.

Senegal’s victory at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year comes 20 years after Mr. Cissé was not penalized in the end of the same tournament, depriving the team of his first trophy return – a memory that long haunted his night, he said.

Since then, Senegal has enjoyed a resurgence in voice, and national pride around the team in all pictures last month when Senegal won Egypt. code in a penalty in his first game at Diamniadio Stadium.

Some fans said they slept outside the stadium the night before to make sure they got the best seats. Just before kicking off, thousands more lines entered, the sound of whistles and drums filled the air.

“It’s a good day for Senegal,” said Sally Diassy, ​​a 30-year-old French-Senegalese who lives in France and said she was visiting Senegal to support her favorite group.

The excitement of the film after the victory was about the return of the Senegalese players after they won the Africa Cup of Nations in February. Tens of thousands of fans greeted them as they toured the streets of Dakar. President Macky Sall presented the award to the team and Mr. Cissé workers with some land in the city and in Diamniadio, with an estimated $ 83,000, insufficient funds to set up some small protests in the country of almost half the population in the poverty line.

But some athletes have also given up: Sadio Mané, the team star, has built a hospital in his hometown. Kalidou Koulibaly, the director, bought an ambulance for his father’s village.

“Players want to be a role model in their country,” said Salif Diallo, a former professional footballer who played Mr. Cissé’s job as an athlete and coach. “These groups are changing the perception that Senegalese have their own.”

Those who know Mr.

“I was trying to be an example,” Mr. Cissé talks about her career as an athlete and coach. “If the Senegalese footballer moves to Birmingham or Montpelier or wherever I play tomorrow, I hope he will be welcomed because they will always remember Aliou Cissé as a good man.”

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