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The smile, the listening, the outspokenness. Aliou Cissé, Senegal’s coach for seven years, is calm: Tuesday, March 29, his footballers qualified, in the overheated atmosphere of the new Dakar stadium, for the next World Cup in Qatar, at the expense of Egypt. The Pharaohs, targets of lasers during the match, officially complained to the public. African champions since February, the Senegalese will therefore participate in a second consecutive World Cup, the third in their history. They will face the host country, Ecuador and the Netherlands, a pool well within their reach. Sitting on the terrace of a hotel, opposite the new den of the Lions of Teranga, Aliou Cissé, 46, confides in his career, his team and the ills of African football.
After qualifying for the World Cup, your first words were to thank your supporters. Why ?
If the Diamniadio stadium had 16 million seats, the 16 million Senegalese would have gone there. When they are together, nothing can stop them, nothing can happen to us. The Senegalese has long been a spectator, not a supporter, but mentalities are changing.
How do you respond to Egyptians who accuse your audience of being violent and racist?
For me, there is no controversy. I heard our audience was immature because they were asked to be behind their team. Racist? We ? It’s going too far. Our culture is not racist, our past is not racist.
And the many lasers that targeted opposing players…
Who started ? I have been coach of Senegal for seven years, I cannot even tell you a quarter of what we experience when we move on the continent. I’m not one to whine, but you have to see how we are received. It happened that in some countries, we couldn’t get into the stadium locker rooms, we had to wait in the parking lot. We can blame Senegal for everything, except for not having a “teranga” [l’hospitalité, en wolof].
Have you spoken to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) about it?
The CAF does not seize anything at all. The reality is that when we travel, we are sometimes on our own. The referees are also on their own. Some countries, if they want to, can create problems in your organization. This is why today we are taking the lead. To avoid unpleasant surprises, a few days before a match, we send a delegation with our team manager [fonction de super intendant] to do a prospecting mission: see the rooms, the ground, time the trip from the hotel to the stadium.
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