Experienced African stars hope to lift profile of Djibouti football with Arta

Arta Solar 7

Arta Solar 7 was a relatively unknown Djiboutian side until the club signed former Cameroon international Alex Song at the start of last season. The arrival of Song, a former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder hoisted the club to the limelight and it was not just for nothing as the Capital city based club lifted the Premier League for the first time.

They have gone on to rope in other big names in African football. Song’s former national teammate Idriss Kameni arrived and soon so did former Senegalese international Diafra Sakho and former Burkina Faso forward Alain Traore.

The arrival of those star names have further put the club on the African map; from an unknown entity to a team that has caught the attention of the continent.

The president shared with me his dream and I saw it was a good thing and a good project to be part of. Alex Song
Arta Solar - Alex Song

Speaking to CAFOnline.com, Song says the mission is to inspire the next generation of African football stars and help raise the profile of Djibouti football, a country that has hitherto been taken as minnows in African football.

“We just came in here to try and develop the team. I believe that when we are here we can help the young players who dream of playing in Europe by mentoring them and helping them improve. They were so happy to see us and it is that positive influence that we want to bring into the team,” Song, who has also played for FC Sion in Switzerland and West Ham United in England said.

He added; “We want to also try and improve the level of football in this country. The president shared with me his dream and I saw it was a good thing and a good project to be part of. He wants to build an academy and this will be a good chance for all players to achieve their dreams.”

“We want to show that with a good structure, you can develop African football. I am interested to see more young African players get the chance to go to Europe and I believe we can take Djibouti football to the next level.”

Arta Solar - Diafra Sakho

Sakho, who played for West Ham in England, Rennes in France and Bursaspor in Turkey said he decided to join Arta upon the influence of Song and believes their partnership alongside other international players will be a good ingredient for future success.

“I came here because of Alex Song and the president also have a good project here. Also, for the future of African football, this is important for me and I hope that for many African footballers, before they think of going to China, they can also come and play in Africa. We started with Alex and I hope I can see more of my brothers coming back home to help African football with the experience they have gathered,” Sakho said.

He added; “This is my first year playing in African football and I am looking forward to the challenge. I am also looking forward to being a positive influence to the people and players in this country.”

The two alongside Traore were influential as Arta made their TotalEnergies CAF Champions League debut last weekend in the preliminary round when they played to a 1-1 draw with Kenyan champions Tusker FC.

Arta Solar vs Tusker

In hitherto years, this is a clash that would have otherwise been concluded in the first leg. The last time they played continental football against a Kenyan opponent in the 2018-19 TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup, they suffered a crashing 9-1 loss; 6-1 in the first leg and 3-0 away.

But, they have gone on to show they have grown in stature and the presence of the international experience, though a few yards past their prime, has gone on to improve them.

They face the Kenyan champions on Saturday in the return leg with dreams and destiny in their hands. A high scoring draw or an outright win in the Kenyan capital will earn them a date in the first round against Egyptian giants Zamalek.

And Arta is dreaming.

“I believe we have a good chance. In the first leg we controlled the game really well despite playing against very tough opponents but we earned a draw. If we can play a bit better than that and improve on the finishing, then we can get something from that game,” said Song.

Arta Solar - Song with Tusker coach

Sakho added; “It is a difficult game playing away from home but we are ready. We know we have a chance and if we can add a bit of punch, we will get the ticket to play in the next round in Egypt.”