Sadio Mane: An Exemplary African Football Legend

For many weeks towards the end of the last season, talks of Sadio Mane becoming the Ballon D’Or winner were rife. While they didn’t seem out of place, considering what Liverpool were masterminding at the time, it was a bit too much to tag the Senegal star as the best in the world. He’s however, a lot more. 

For many reasons, the life of an African child is peculiar and Mane’s is not any different. He beat lack and poverty to rise as one of the best footballers in the world and one of the best to come out of Africa. Beyond football, Mane is a storybook for an African child who dream to touch the sky. He is Sadio from Sedhiou, the star from Génération Foot to a generation’s favourite foot.

The Red Bull Salzburg talent route has been one of the biggest blessings to the African football ecosystem. Players are properly managed and sent to good clubs abroad, who give them opportunities to thrive and shine. Mane is a product of this talent channel, and one of its most glowing examples.

From France, where he first nursed ambitions to someday play at the highest level of world football, he could see Bayern Munich do what they did best in Germany. When realities come that close, it’s just appropriate to dream a day more. And that’s what Mane did. 

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Senegal’s Sadio Mane, right, embraces teammate Idrissa Gana Gueye after winning the African Cup of Nations 2022 final soccer match against Egypt at Olembe stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

His move to Austria became a blessing, and from there Southampton found him worthy of a taste of the Premier League. An international star by every inch, Mane’s football will fit in well into any league. He knows his onions and there’s enough hunger to propel the man in need of a bigger name at the time. 

Liverpool came calling and in six years at Anfield, he helped the Reds win their first Premier League title in 30 years, won the UEFA Champions League and played in three finals, won Liverpool’s first FA Cup title in more than a decade, won everything else in club football and just when you think that’s enough, he’s winning outside the pitch too.

He’s championing a change of fortunes in his community and he’s a god in his country, Senegal. In January, he led Senegal to their first AFCON title ever and became their highest goal scorer ever earlier in June. You can say lines are falling in place for Mane, but his achievements have come with consistent hard work and self-belief. 

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When he blasted home the penalty that helped Senegal qualify for the World Cup, you could tell he has the burden of the nation on his broad shoulders and he’s not crushed by that weight. 

After completing a move to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, becoming the first Senegalese to achieve the feat, he also reportedly became the highest-earning African in football, and deservedly so.

Bayern Munich are elitist in all of their methods and strategy, and attracting a player of Mane’s brilliance is a plus for the club and big deal for the player. The dreams he nurtured in nearby Austria many years ago are coming true, and despite having all that can be the height for a footballer in the bag, he’s aiming for more. 

“There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best clubs in the world,” he said.

 “For sure I think hopefully we will see that in the future. One of the reasons I came here is that I believe 100 percent that we can achieve big, big things. We will see in the future.

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“Me coming here, I think it’s exciting. I’m here to help my team win everything because it’s Bayern. If you play for Bayern, I think you have to have this mentality and this hunger to fight to win everything.”

His hunger is unrivaled and he shows it at every opportunity. Africa has had a good number of football legends, dead and living, and Mane is born of that great order. 

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