Thursday 23 March 2023, 22:45

Fatma Samoura and Senegalese football look to the future in Dakar

  • FIFA Secretary Genera Fatma Samoura attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Demba Diop Stadium

  • FIFA delegation also visited the Génération Foot academy, from which Sadio Mané graduated

  • Day 3 in Senegal concluded with a meeting with the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall

After a busy first two days on an official visit to her native Senegal, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura and a FIFA delegation devoted today, 23 March 2023 to two important pillars for the future of Senegalese football: infrastructure, with the laying of the foundation stone for the Demba Diop Stadium, and training, with a visit to the Generation Foot academy.

Although Senegalese football has enjoyed recent success at the CAF African Cup of Nations, the African Nations Championship and the CAN U-20, it has nevertheless experienced dark times, particularly in July 2017 when the League Cup final between Union Sportive de Ouakam and Stade de Mbour witnessed the collapse of a wall, leaving eight dead and one hundred injured.

This tragic event led to the closure of the stadium, which was built in 1963. Sixty years later, the Demba Diop Stadium is about to be reborn. A memorandum of understanding was signed in 2020 by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) and, in September 2022, the FIFA Development Committee gave its approval to commence the renovation work.

Fatma Samoura and the FIFA delegation, today attended a ceremony to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone, welcomed with great pomp by local dignitaries, and the women's team of AS Dakar Sacré Cœur.

"The Demba Diop Stadium represents a long history and women's sport will be honoured when the stadium reopens. I have made a commitment that the women's clubs of Dakar will host their opponents here” said the President of the Senegalese Football Federation, Mr Augustin Senghor, thanking FIFA and its President Gianni Infantino in his speech.

With financial support from FIFA, the work will increase the capacity of the stadium from 15,000 to 20,000 and will be carried out in two phases. The first phase will involve the stadium itself, as well as the stands, part of which will be covered. In the second phase, three training pitches will be built, as well as infrastructure including offices, a press room, a conference room and several meeting rooms. Mme Samoura's day continued with a visit to the AS Génération Foot Academy. Founded in 2000 by former Guinea international Mady Touré following a partnership agreement with FC Metz, the training centre has today become one of the jewels of Senegalese football. Among the many internationals who have come through its ranks are Papiss Cisse, Diafra Sakho, Ismaïla Sarr, Moustapha Bayal Sall, and of course, local legend Sadio Mané, double African Player of the Year in 2019 and 2022, and one of the best players in the history of the Lions of Teranga.

Génération Foot does not however only focus on the ball skills of young Senegalese. The academy also includes a high school with 60 students. The boarders benefit from quality infrastructure, including grass and synthetic pitches, changing rooms, accommodation, medical facilities, classrooms, a gym and restaurant. The Secretary General was impressed by all these features during her visit to the complex, which she had already described as "a place for training model citizens who will be committed to the country's development" during her last visit in 2021. "I was amazed by what I found in the Generation Foot Academy. The quality of education proves that it is not only an academy for football, but it is an academy for the promotion of human beings. If Generation Foot does not produce football talent, it will produce good Senegalese citizens" she said.

Finally, Fatma Samoura concluded the third day of her trip with a meeting with the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall. Accompanied by Sarai Bareman, FIFA's Director of Women's Football, the FIFA Secretary General spoke to the Head of State about the development of women's football in Senegal and asked for his support in making the Demba Diop Stadium a dedicated women's football venue.

Not content with agreeing to this proposal, Mr Sall also pledged his full support for the development of the women's national team so that they can achieve a historic qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2027™, having come so close to achieving this for the 2023 edition.