BEFORE Sadio Mane became a household name in the Premier League, he was part of a Senegalese football club whose academy is recognised as one of the best in Africa.
The Liverpool star’s life features in a documentary called Sadio Mane: Made In Senegal that charts his humble beginnings and the sacrifices he made to achieve his dream of becoming a footballer.
In the film Mane opens about how he was influenced by the death of his father when he was just seven, as well his charity endeavours, including funding a hospital in Bambali.
He told The Guardian about the docu: “I wanted to show to the people that you can achieve anything in the world if you are ready to build on your dreams and put in hard work. I am made in Senegal.”
Mane’s journey in football started at Académie Génération Foot, or Generation Foot, which was set up in Dakar in 2000.
Last year, their senior team won the Senegal Premier League – after winning their first title in 2017.
HOW THEY DID IT
The secret to their success is their youthful approach to the game – most of their squad is no older than 18-years-old, and the players aspire to make it to Europe to further their football education.
So far, over 30 have made it professional and gone on to greater shores.
As well as Mane, former West Ham striker Diafra Sakho and current Watford winger Ismaïla Sarr are former graduates.
Former Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse, once a £9.3 million signing, also learned his trade at Generation Foot.
In 2003, impressed by their set-up, FC Metz became an exclusive partner with the club that gives the French club first dibs on new talent, which is where Mane, Sakho and Cisse all plied their trade before moving onto pastures new.
Generation Foot was the brainchild of former footballer Mady Toure, who played in France in the 1990s before a knee injury wrecked his career.
“I started with a table and two balls,” Toure revealed in an interview with Dakarswagg.
“I started from scratch and I embarked on a project that was a little crazy.
“Few people believed in this project during the launch. I had my roadmap and my goals to reach. I wanted to gauge myself, to know what I was capable of, but I also wanted to help and help Senegal.
“Failure to succeed as a player has been a source of motivation for success as a leader.
“The academy operates with the support of FC Metz and training allowances. We give an opportunity to young people to be fed, housed, educated and trained.”
Around 120 young players, aged from 12-years-old upwards, are enrolled in a six year course designed to turn them into future stars.
“I wanted to educate players to be able to cope with European football,” he continued.
“Some African players arrived in Europe without the necessary instruction to read a contract for example. I wanted to give them the keys to succeed.
“Before the creation of the Academy, when I brought young African players to Europe, I was always told that they were missing something.
“So I created the Academy to clear the gaps of the players and put them in the best conditions to succeed in Europe.
A FRENCHMAN PERFECTED THE IDEA
In 2013, Generation Foot welcomed French manager Olivier Perrin to their set-up as the organisation continued to go from strength to strength.
Every year, FC Metz take at least two of their prospective talents to Europe to see how the cope with the rigours of French football.
And Perrin admitted how important Generation Foot is for Senegal socially.
“We aren’t going to make 110 professionals out of 110 kids, but we also have a social role to play in Senegal, to improve their conditions,” he told Daily Nation.
“Everything is 100 percent covered, they don’t spend a penny and they receive a free education.
“There are no transfer fees and in return FC Metz pays for the monthly costs of the academy.”
He added: “We want Generation Foot players to be ready for anything, as sportsmen and as people.”
With Senegal’s reputation on the international stage continuing to grow, it’s evident Generation Foot has a huge role to play in producing future talents.
And judging by their success of Mane and Sarr, it seems the academy’s next superstar will probably be just around the corner.