The patience of the Senegalese Football Federation and the stability of the bench explain Senegal's success in African competitions.
Senegal's national football teams have won four continental trophies in a year – African Cup of Nations (CAN 2022) in Cameroon, African Nations Championship (CHAN 2023) in Algeria, CAN beach soccer in Mozambique and CAN under 20 in Egypt. Souleymane Diallo, teacher-researcher, responsible for football lessons at the National Higher Institute for Popular Education and Sport (INSEPS) at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, explains to Assane Diagne of The Conversation Afrique the reasons for these performance.
What is the trigger for Senegal's success?
The trigger can be located at several levels. Since the arrival ofAugustin Senghor to the presidency of the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF), we have witnessed a structuring of football based on four essential aspects.
First at the organizational level, we saw that the FSF has a mastery of African competitions. Previously, Senegal went to African competitions for a discovery or it remained a long time without going there.
Since we solved the problem of participation, we have been able to control the factors that revolve around competition. This facilitated a mastery of logistics. To win in Africa, it is necessary. Added to this is the significant aid from the State of Senegal, which charters a special flight to ensure the movement of the players. In Africa, travel is very difficult.
We can also underline the policy put in place by the FSF which asks the various technical staff to have a complementarity, to fit together. Players who were in the under 20s thus find themselves in the under 23s. Among the under 17s, there are also under 15s. Through the organization put in place, we train an athlete who will be in continuity, in the search for performance through this policy aimed at putting the staffs together.
Do you identify other success factors?
The other factor is the infrastructure that plays a role in the search for performance. The existence of two technical centers in Toubab Dialaw and Guereo, two villages on the Atlantic coast, south of Dakar, allows the various national teams to have sufficient time to regroup but also adequate land to be able to train players. These two national technical centers have played a very important role in these performances that we are witnessing.
We must not neglect the contribution of the academies. For example, Generation Foot has seven boarders in the Under-20 team and four in the local CHAN-winning national team. diambars has more than 5 boarders in the under 17s. These academies play an important role in the development of Senegalese football. They have good infrastructure.
Another factor is the existence of nearby land almost everywhere – especially in Dakar – which allow boys to play football.
We should also underline the contribution of football schools which have organized themselves into an association called National coordination of football schools (CONEF) which organizes competitions. A lot of Senegalese players playing in Europe come from these football schools. This is the case of Sadio Mané, the best African player. Most of our players finish their training in Europe. Senegal is the third African nation to exports the most players in Europe. This is proof of the good quality of their training.
What about the management side?
The training of managers has also contributed to this. In this area, Senegal is quoted everywhere. As proof, the experimentation of a mass training FIFA instructors with a license organized in Senegal, of which I was lucky enough to be a part. In 2021, we have trained more than 1.000 coaches.
The other important point is patience at the level of the FSF. There is a certain stability on the benches of the different national teams. This means that leaders trust coaches, because sports performance is built over time. Take the example of Aliou Cissé who has been at the head of the national team for 8 years. Previously, it was in the under 23s. This is proof of a certain continuity and patience on the part of the decision-makers. For 12 years, the same people have taken care of the destinies of Senegalese football at the FSF.
Finally, we must remember the important contribution of the clubs who do a job by trying to recruit very good coaches, to organize themselves within them, by equipping themselves with their own infrastructures. These same clubs supply players to the various national teams.
Can we speak today of a Senegalese model of football training?
The model is built over time. To be a model, there are several parameters that must be taken into account. The element that may seem to determine the Senegalese model is financial stability, stability at the level of leaders, coaches and players.
Most of the players are the same players who made the lower categories up to the first team. This is the case of Crepin Diatta and Sadio Mane. There is stability at all levels (managers, coaches, players). The model is based on stability and trust.
How can Senegal continue to perpetuate its good results for future generations?
For me, Senegal can continue to maintain its results for generations to come by consolidating the achievements and maintaining this stability at all levels. To do this, you need to create a Federal Academy who will be able to take in sight these pre-requisites that football has had in recent times.
We must train young people very early in this direction by putting them in these performance conditions, by showing them that Senegal has reached a level where we must not lower the bar. You have to train the Senegalese footballer on winning to go into competition. We no longer go to competitions to learn. We go there to win. For that, we have to prepare the Senegalese footballer, because we took too long to establish these performances. Now, we will take more time to consolidate these gains. This is why we are going to set up a federal academy for Senegalese clubs.
While national teams shine on the continental level, Senegalese clubs are almost absent from African competitions. How do you explain this paradox?
Every year, Senegalese clubs lose most of their best players to leagues like Guinea, Mauritania and Morocco. These clubs must have a policy in place to retain them. For this policy, the financial component seems important.
This paradox is ultimately easy to explain, because football is business. A football club is a business that makes a living. If you are given a contract in a foreign championship, even if it is not taken up, you are obliged to leave, because it is the search for money.
An essential aspect has already been settled: the Senegalese championship has competitive players. What remains to be done is that the clubs work to be able to retain them. The State and the national societies must participate in this by helping the clubs financially.
Senegalese society is designed in such a way that there is a social dimension around football. You cannot retain a player who has a contract that allows him to earn a living. If, for sporting reasons, you want to retain him, this can create problems in the clubs. This is why to help them, the leaders are obliged, at the end of each competition, to release the best players.