Senegal threw the footballing form book out of the window and put paid to the notion that experience is integral to success with their feat of qualifying for November's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The West African country put together their first ever beach soccer national team for the recent African qualifiers in Durban and strode through the field to secure a berth at the Rio de Janeiro showpiece.
In doing so, they will evoke memories of the last Senegalese side to participate at a FIFA tournament, when in 2002 the Lions of Teranga caused major upsets at the FIFA World Cup™ finals.
Although none of the 2002 generation graduated to the beach soccer team, Senegal used several experienced players to provide the backbone of their side, with captain Victor Diagne and striker Mamadou Diallo, bringing the necessary guile in Durban. Both had played in past CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals, Diagne as far back as 1992 when Senegal hosted the event.
Senegal began the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers in Durban at a furious pace and never let up until they had booked their berth at November's tournament in Rio de Janeiro. They began with a win over the highly fancied Egyptians, who let themselves down by arriving late at the tournament and consequently tired from the pressure of their journey, an advantage that Senegal seized upon
That was followed by a significant 4-3 win over Cameroon, who had been the winners of last year's qualifying tournament in Durban and who played in the 2006 edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. It meant Senegal booked a semi-final place and were within one game of qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro 2007.
They next lost 10-6 to Nigeria to finish as runners-up and set up a decisive meeting with Côte d'Ivoire, in which Senegal overwhelmed the previously unbeaten Ivorians in a comfortable 9-3 win which included a hat-trick from Diallo.
The individual initiative of former Senegal international Ibrahima Ndiaye, better known as 'Chita', was behind Senegal's hastily arranged participation at the 2007 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers in Durban. Along with Amadou Diop, the pair are hopeful that the impact of Senegal's qualification for Rio will propel the development of the beach version of football in the West African country.
Ndiaye, who hails from Ouakom, is president of the Senegal Beach Soccer Association and coached the team along with Diop. Ndiaye played for Senegal between 1989 and 1995, while Diop was captain of the national side that competed in the Cup of Nations finals in Egypt in 1986. He was known as 'Boy Bandit' in his playing days.
Nickname 'Big Mama', former international striker Mamadou Diallo brings a wealth of experience to the side at the age of 35. He played for the Lions of Teranga at full international level and had a varied club career that involved him playing in a staggering 12 different countries. Diallo left Senegalese club SOTRA FC for a worldwide footballing adventure in 1992, living on four different continents.
He starred for clubs in Morocco, Switzerland, Turkey, Norway, Germany, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Malaysia, South Africa and most recently Mali in a 15-year professional career. His past clubs include MSV Duisburg, St Gallen, Lillestrom, IFK Gothenburg and, for three years, a high-profile stint in Major League Soccer, where he was named best player in 2000 while on the books of Tampa Bay Mutiny.
It will be Senegal's first participation at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
What they said
"When we first got here, being first-timers, qualifying for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro was a dream come true and there's nothing more exciting than seeing it become reality. We stepped up when we needed the most, and now it's all about getting even better and playing a good part against the game's elite," said Senegal's Ngalla Sylla after qualifying for the tournament.