Idrissa Sarr - The first ambassador of Mauritanian football

IDRISSA SARR ANCIEN ARBITRE ok

A teacher by profession, Idrissa Sarr held his whistle to become the first Mauritanian to survey the continent and represent his country in the days they struggled to exist on the international level.

CAFOnline.com met Sarr on the sidelines of the ongoing Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations to give his overview of the evolution of the game in his country.

The whole Mauritanian football family responds unanimously when it comes to former referee Idrissa Sarr.

"He is the first flag bearer in Mauritanian football," said the President of the Mauritanian Football Federation, Ahmed Yahya on the former international referee.

"Yes, he was an icon, our first ambassador", adds El Hadj Sy, president of ASAC Concorde, one of the flagship clubs in Mauritanian football.

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Brahima Brazza, Mauritanian football expert talked proudly on the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations final.

“We only had eyes for him. The match did not interest me at all, and I don’t even remember the score and the winning team. All that interested me was the referee, our big brother Idrissa Sarr, who carried the national flag high,” Brazza said with pride.

At 70, Idrissa Sarr keeps a very clear memory which he recalled with a smile on his face.

“It will always be a great feeling to remember having been a good ambassador for my country across Africa and the world,” he said.

“I am a teacher, but people know me through my whistle. I am proud to have given my years to train the future elites of my country. Thanks to my whistle I succeeded to make my country known a little bit,” added Sarr.

I am proud to have given my years to train the future elites of my country Idrissa Sarr

Idrissa Sarr officiated in four Africa Cup of Nations editions (1986, 1988, 1990 and 1992) including the 1988 final match. He also appeared in two U-20 FIFA World Cup tournaments, 1989 in Saudi Arabia and 1991 in Portugal.

"I narrowly missed out on the 1991 U-20 FIFA World Cup final," he recalled. “We were designated for the third-place match and I was not happy because I told myself that I had made performances which should allow me to officiate the final.''

Sarr said he is delighted with the efforts CAF are doing for refereeing. “In our days there were less monitoring and supervision, and the referee were almost left to themselves.”

But Sarr believes Mauritanian referees are lucky now as they are no longer left alone.

"They are at a blessed time, and frankly I pinch myself to believe that I am not dreaming when I see the current results of our country's football," he said.

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In addition to appearing at the African Nations Championships (CHAN) 2014 and 2018, Mauritania took part in Total Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019, and are currently hosting the Total U-20 AFCON in 2021.

“It was a dream that we imagined inaccessible for our country in the very recent past,” he said, noting that Mauritanian clubs, represented in FC Nouadhibou, also reached the CAF Confederation Cup group stage in 2020.

“It's huge and now it's not just one or two international referees but many ones,” said Sarr, whose own son Babacar Sarr is a Mauritanian international referee since 2016.

“I did everything to dissuade him, but it was impossible. So, I had to let him live his passion,” concluded the teacher who retired since 2005.