Senegal, is now an intimidating name dangling deliciously on the lips of followers of African football.
Senegal Under-17 team celebrating their AFCON feat recently
Years back, the name of the West African nation only evokes memories of failure and ill-luck.
Today, the Terranga Lions are not the near-team they used to be known. They are now a formidably fearful side, roaring to devour everything on sight.
Years of painful, elaborate planning and investment has catapulted them from near doldrums to massive prominence – resulting in the breaking of records like a pack of cards.
Only last week, the Senegalese Under-17 side – the Teranga Cubs ‘devoured’ all on their way to clinching their first 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Under-17 Cup in Algeria. The team did not concede until the semi-final. Remarkably, the Cubs were also a free-scoring crop of players with cumulative 15 goals throughout the tourney.
Amara Diouf won the golden boot, while teammate Serigne Diouf was named the best goalkeeper.
Prior to this spangling feat, the Senegalese had broken their Nations Cup bugaboo in 2022 – upstaging Egypt on penalties.
A few months later, Senegal became champions of the 2022 Africa Beach Soccer Cup of Nations. It was the country’s fourth straight triumph in the competition and its seventh overall.
Senegal dominated all their opposition, crushing Uganda 10-1 in the group’s opening game before banging home another eight past Madagascar on their way to glory.
This year also opened up its dazzling smiles at Senegal as they snatched their first-ever CHAN trophy — a competition for home-based players across Africa, defeating the host Algeria 6-5 on penalties.
In March, two months ago, Senegal added another maiden trophy to its cubby-hole – winning the 2023 Under-20 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. Gorgeously, they achieved the feat without conceding a single goal. The Senegalese also swaggered away with the individual awards for the competition, with the golden boot, ball and glove going to their players.
Indeed, no African country has held all these trophies in the same period. The waves of achievement confirm Senegal as the new hegemony of African football.
Do not forget that they are the first nation to win all three major CAF continental titles! What an achievement!
In an interview with FIFA recently, head coach of Senegal’s senior national team, Aliou Cisse, divulged the secret behind the success of the nation’s football revolution.
“If you look at the number of foreign coaches at the 2019 AFCON compared to the 2022 AFCON, you notice that the number of home-grown coaches increased.
“It means that we have been training technicians and skilled technicians. Now, I think it is important to keep going further in terms of enhancing our techniques and abilities and strengthening our technical departments.”
From the beaming winning coaches of the likes of Pope Thiaw (CHAN), Mamadou Diallo (Beach Soccer) and Malick Daf (Under-20) to Serigne Dia (Under-17), Senegal have definitely demonstrated to the whole world their patience and resolve in investment, and building a tremendous force of technical brains.
With time, we should also be thinking about the ‘Africanisation’ of our coaches. We have a bundle of talents to take over the game, but that would mean investing in their development to put them at the pinnacle so they can also rub shoulders with the crème de la crème.
Certainly, success at this endeavour would not come in a day. It would take a while, but we need to get the ball rolling now – and do it conscientiously.
Somewhere last year, coaches Yusif Basigi and Baba Nuhu were sponsored by the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to Germany for a technical attachment with Bundesliga side TSG Hoffenheim.
The move was part of the Technical Directorate’s efforts to strengthen Ghanaian coaches and help them adapt to modern football trends. That is great!
The GFA has brokered a deal with three European clubs, namely Borussia Dortmund, Darmstadt FC and TSG Hoffeinheim for attachment opportunities for Ghanaian coaches.
We are told this followed deep engagements between Technical Director Bernhard Lippert and the three German clubs in the last few months.
The deal is expected to give national team coaches (male and female) as well as top coaches in the top-tier Leagues the opportunity to have practical stints with these clubs at different time intervals to broaden their horizon and to equip them with the modern trends of the game.
For now, let us gild the lily of the Senegalese – but more importantly, borrow a page from their book – and do it even better.
By John Vigah