At the Awards ceremony organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Thursday July 21 in Rabat, Morocco, Senegal distinguished itself by winning most of the major titles.
The Teranga Lions notably won the prize for the best African team, while Sadio Mané won that of the best African player and Aliou Cissé that of the best coach. The reward for the most beautiful goal did not escape the Senegalese raid, since it was awarded to Pape Ousmane Sakho.
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Saturday July 23, shortly before going to the final of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), which saw South Africa win against Morocco (2-1), the mayor of Gorée and President of the Senegalese Football Federation, Augustin Senghor, received Young Africa.
Jeune Afrique: What distinguishes the Senegalese football team of 2002, which had great individuals but no title, from that of today, which is African champion?
Augustin Senghor: In 2002, we made an impression by reaching the CAN final, then by climbing to the quarter-finals of world Cup. We then had an exceptional generation, which matured between 2000 and 2002, thanks to the many dual nationals and expatriates who played in European clubs, as well as the work of the coach at the time.
Today’s result is not the result of chance
However, these performances were not linked to substantive work. There were no solid foundations and we hadn’t anticipated the generational transition. This was seen after this World Cup: Senegal experienced the biggest crisis in the history of its football, by not selecting for any major qualification for ten years.
For years, we have worked on the grassroots, reorganizing the federation while structuring the national teams.
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Today’s result is no accident. We reached the final of the last two AFCONs, and we are the first country in Africa for four years in the FIFA rankings.
However, we will only be fully satisfied if the federation manages to renew itself and maintain its level of competitiveness after the departure of the current generation.
How do you explain that a country which has such a successful national team has such an uncompetitive championship, including on the African scene?
Our young teams are also very successful. Since 2015, and even though we didn’t exist before that date, we have chained three CAN finals. In this women’s edition, we bumped into quite a few teams as we came out of nowhere.
Nevertheless, we are well aware of this dichotomy that exists between national teams and local football.
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It must first be recognized that in the African Interclub Cup, apart from certain clubs such as Mamelodi Sundowns or TP Mazembe, the hegemony of Maghreb clubs is total. The means allocated to them by the State and the sponsors are more substantial.
Then, Senegal has a particularity: it is an emitting country. That is to say that from one year to another, a large number of players go abroad to play in big clubs in Europe. Admittedly, they come back stronger in the national team, but this phenomenon weakens the championship.
Bonuses and land granted to players at the end of the CAN have been extensively commented on. Some clubs would have liked to benefit from some form of compensation in order to invest in their development. Do you intend to accede to their request?
The current mechanisms mean that when we qualify for the World Cup or win the CAN, we invest in local football. Since 2012 and 2013, we have built the Jules-François-Bocandé technical center and the Youssoupha-Ndiaye center of excellence, which allow us to train players.
Football must be autonomous and generate resources
In Senegal, there are 400 clubs playing, all categories combined. People do not necessarily know it, but it is the federation which finances the professional championship. It supports the operation and subsidizes the teams, both professional and amateur.
We have also set up detection systems to unearth the talents playing in the most isolated corners of the country. For example, Sadio Mané, who played in a remote village, would not have been able to join the Génération foot club in Dakar without these investments.
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Clubs need to understand that these are indirect investments that benefit them. And again, even if it’s not huge amounts, we subsidize the clubs every season.
But we also tell them: “Attention, football must be autonomous and generate resources. Not only for themselves, but also to become a fundraising vehicle for amateur football. »
Like other presidents of African federations, you have declared yourself in favor of changing the World Cup from four to two years. Where are the discussions on the subject?
Under the presidency of Sepp Blatter (1998-2015), we felt underrepresented. We were asked to win the World Cup with five African teams out of fifty-four nations, where Europe had 13 in total.
Today, Africa needs to generate a lot of resources for its development, and we know that these World Cups contribute to this.
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Shortening the interval to two years would also allow us to play more often at a higher level. We African leaders are well aware that the future of world football belongs to Africa. This is perhaps what explains the fear of change in some people. But the African football train is on and no one will be able stop it.