Is Sadio Mane good enough

Sadio Mané - run away from the family to be Africa's Footballer of the Year

In a five-part series, “Bluewin” looks at the extraordinary rags-to-riches careers of today's football stars. Part 5: Sadio Mané.
In January, the Senegalese was voted Africa's Footballer of the Year. It is the culmination of an impressive career that began with broken shoes on the streets of Senegal.

Sadio Mané grew up in Bambali, a small village in southern Senegal. Although he comes from a very religious family, the little boy's life revolved around football from an early age. He learns to play football on a dusty place in Bambali - far away from the big football stage in Europe.

“Sometimes we would pick grapefruits to play with,” explains Mané in the documentary “Made in Senegal”. "It was'nt easy. Life there was tough. " From an early age, Mané helped his uncle work in the fields. He soon promises him that at some point he will make sure that he no longer has to get up early and go to the fields.

Nobody in his family believes him. And nobody wants them to give up school and fieldwork for their football dream. But Mané is convinced that he is good enough. "Where I was born it means having to sacrifice everything to become a footballer," says the now 28-year-old.

The escape from Bambali to Dakar

And that's exactly what he does. Except for his best friend, he doesn't tell anyone when he gets on the bus one morning for the capital. Because he has no ID, he crosses the border into Gambia with his school papers on the way to Dakar. And he does it.

In Dakar he joins the “Generation Foot” football academy. At the beginning he is only smiled at. "I will never forget that. When I wanted to take part in the trial training, an older man looked at me and asked me: 'Are you here for the test?' I said: 'Yes.' He asked me: 'With these shoes? Take a look at it, how can you even play with it? And these pants. Don't you have real football pants? ›»

"I told him that I had brought my best things with me and that I just wanted to play," continued Mané. “When I got there, he was very surprised. I scored four goals in my first game. Then he came to me and said: 'I'll take you right away! You play on my team. 'That's how I got into the academy. "

FC Metz - the chance in Europe

In “Generation Foot” Mané meets Oliver Perrin, a talent scout from the French FC Metz. Perrin is enthusiastic about the young attacker right from the start. “One day I went to a game in Senegal. When I got there, he caught a ball at the penalty spot and ran it across the field until he played the decisive pass to the goalscorer. It almost looked like a video game. It wasn't normal. "

Six months later, Mané moved to France. At the beginning, however, he struggled with a serious injury and only slowly found the kick. But after an operation he came back and defied the unfamiliar conditions, the foreign country and the bitter cold.

His talent did not go unnoticed in Metz - just one year after his arrival, Red Bull Salzburg transferred four million euros for the services of the lightning-fast attacker. The Senegalese stayed in Austria for two years, then Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp wants to meet with him. «I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn't believe he believed I could help his team. They were so good - I watched all of their games, ”enthuses Mané.

Klopp and Mané: love at second sight

But Klopp doesn't want the Senegalese. «I remember the first meeting with Sadio. That was in Dortmund, ”said the ex-BVB coach. “There was a very, very young guy sitting there that day. The baseball cap at half past seven, plus his blond streak. I felt like a rapper in the early stages. So I said: 'Well, I really don't have time for that,' ”remembers the 52-year-old, who quickly regrets the decision. "I would say I have a good sense for people, but that day I was totally wrong."

But the two still find each other. Mané's career leads via Salzburg to Southampton and then to Jürgen Klopp in Liverpool. Under the care of the German coach, the swirling attacker really blossoms. Together they win the Champions League, the Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2019. In January 2020, Mané will be voted Africa's Footballer of the Year. The escape from one's own village as a youngster was worth it.

And Mané has not forgotten where he comes from. He is currently building a school and a hospital in Bambali and visits his old home regularly. He had a house built for his family in Dakar, which he also visits frequently.

But Mané has not yet reached the goal of his dreams. He really wants to win the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal and there are also some titles with Liverpool that he would like to have. «I want to win the Premier League. And the Champions League again. And again. And again."