Ndiaye: Mane and Kalidou said we brought the winning culture to Senegal


Alseyni Ndiaye discusses giving a speech to Aliou Cisse’s senior 11-a-side side and his belief Senegal can win the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai.

  • Alseyni Ndiaye recalls giving an uplifting speech to the 11-a-side Senegal side

  • He assesses group opponents Belarus, Colombia and Japan at UAE 2024

  • The goalkeeper backs Senegal to win the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

Alseyni Ndiaye likes to say that his life was turned on its head at the age of 17, when he decided to give up 11-a-side football and devote himself solely to beach soccer. Given the sport’s low profile at the time in Senegal, few people understood his choice, with many questioning it. Today, some of those same people are thanking him. At 33, the Vision Sport goalkeeper embodies the hope of one day seeing an African country lift a FIFA Beach World Cup™ at senior level. Ndiaye speaks to FIFA about Beach soccer’s transformation from “a holiday sport for people in their forties” in Senegal, an inspiring speech he gave to the senior 11-a-side side and his belief the Lions of Teranga can go all the way at UAE 2024.

FIFA: Alseyni, at UAE 2024, Senegal will be in Group C alongside Belarus, Colombia and Japan. How do you see the group?

Alseyni Ndiaye: It's a very strong section – the group of death in my opinion. When I see the teams we’re going to face, the word ‘revenge’ comes to mind. We played against Belarus at the 2019 edition in Paraguay and beat them in the opening round. So they will be desperate to beat us in Dubai. Japan need no introduction. They were runners-up in the last edition and defeated us in the semi-finals. I can tell you we’re looking forward to that game. Colombia, meanwhile, may have less experience but are not in this tournament by chance. Our first game against Belarus will be decisive. If we want to do well in this tournament, we’ll have to win our opening fixture.

The Lions of Teranga finished fourth at the last World Cup. Looking back, what do you think prevented the team from ending up on the podium?

After our quarter-final against Brazil, Mamadou Sylla, Mamour Diagne, who for me is the best player in the squad, and I were suspended. Senegal played that semi-final without three of their key players. That put us at a disadvantage, and Japan capitalised on that to beat us 5-2.

As team captain, how did it feel to watch that game from the stands?

It was difficult. Very difficult. Even now, I can’t bring myself to watch that game again. It just makes me sad. I cannot process that semi-final loss to Japan, as I feel I abandoned the squad and failed in my duty as captain. I'm not saying that my presence would have changed the outcome of the game, but there was a lack of leadership on the pitch that cost us the victory.

As seven-time African champions, the Senegal beach soccer team have paved the way for other successes by your country, such as victory at the last AFCON by Sadio Mane and Co. The Lions of Teranga have also won the African Nations Championship, the CAF U-20 AFCON and the CAF U-17 AFCON. How does that make you feel?

We collaborate a lot with each other. When the 11-a-side team were preparing for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, coach Aliou Cisse invited us to talk to the team. We told them that it was possible to win, and that they had to shatter that glass ceiling. And we all saw the results. It was beach soccer that brought the culture of winning to all the national teams. Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulibaly have said as much. In 2021, we played at the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations in Saly, Senegal. The national football team interrupted their training to attend the final, where we beat Mozambique. It was a source of motivation for us, and we showed them how to win a final! (laughs)

How is beach soccer regarded in Senegal?

At first, the Senegalese considered it a holiday sport for people in their forties. The turning point came around 2013, when that year’s World Cup in Tahiti became the first to be broadcast here. That's when people started to really get interested in our sport. Today, beach soccer is very popular in Senegal. We’re seeing more and more young people registering with teams and participating in local competitions. Recently, national television carried out a vox pop on the streets of Dakar. Many people believe that beach soccer will be the first team sport to bring a World Cup back to Senegal.

On that subject, what are Senegal's ambitions for next year’s Beach Soccer World Cup?

The upcoming World Cup in Dubai means a lot to us. It’ll be the last for the older members of the team and we want to honour them. We'll be going there with determination because our goal is to win the trophy. It's going to be tough, but we believe we can do it.

Source: FIFA