N'Doye driven by heart of a Lion
© AFP

If Dame N’Doye’s spell with Copenhagen has often felt like a love affair, the affection has undoubtedly flowed in both directions. The Senegalese forward first arrived in the Danish capital in 2009, and since then both club and player have profited from their association with a string of goals and titles. N’Doye scored 14 times in his maiden season before notching 26 the following year to top the scoring charts and win best player plaudits. And, he is leading the Superliga field again this term with 15. Those goals have helped Copenhagen streak six points clear in the standings, and with six games remaining they appear perfectly placed to clinch a fourth consecutive Danish crown.

“When I arrived here, I didn’t know the club very well,” N'Doye told FIFA.com. “But I quickly realised that it’s a fantastic club, if not just for the way they welcomed me. What’s incredible is that the more I play, the more I tell myself it’s an extraordinary club.”

Those are not empty words either, as the 27-year-old recently proved by decorating his left arm with the tattooed logo of a local supporter’s group. Nor is he alone in having learned to appreciate Copenhagen’s appeal of late. The capital side put together a superb run to reach the round of 16 in last season’s UEFA Champions League, and along the way they earned the respect of none other than Josep Guardiola, who remarked: “I’ve never come up against another team as solid or intense since I’ve been coaching Barcelona.”

Founded 20 years ago, Copenhagen have also turned success into a habit like few other sides across Europe. Their current league campaign looks set to land them the tenth title of their brief history and, incredibly, it would be their ninth in the last 12 years.

What’s incredible is that the more I play, the more I tell myself it’s an extraordinary club. 
Dame N'Doye, Copenhagen forward

Danish delight
That consistency has been built on pugnacity and adaptability, qualities which N’Doye himself has repeatedly demonstrated during his career. The forward may be enjoying his football at present, but he has needed all his patience and self-confidence to keep going after a string of unrewarding adventures in Qatar, Portugal and Greece. Asked now whether he retains fondest memories of Al Sadd, Academica Coimbra, Panathinaikos or OFI Crete, and his answer speaks volumes: “Copenhagen. It was hardly worth me playing for all those clubs. I’ll only remember my experience in Denmark.”

Since signing for the Løverne (The Lions), the Lion of Teranga has clearly found a club on his own wavelength. Like Copenhagen, N’Doye lacks a high profile and has tended to be underestimated, but both are fearsome opponents on the pitch and owe much of their success to playing with heart. “The league I play in may attract less media attention, but at least I’m doing something I love,” he explained. “I put all my heart into it and that’s enough to make me happy. I just want to bring pleasure to everyone who supports me, and that’s what helps me progress.”

Born in Thies, he is similarly passionate about his homeland, having scored three goals in eight appearances for Senegal. “My roots play a fundamental role for me and Senegal has been another driving force in my career,” he said, before paying tribute to his compatriots Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. Between them, the two marksmen have racked up 27 goals for Newcastle United this season. “I’m proud of them. They’re perfect ambassadors for Senegal and Africa. What they’re doing is sensational.”

Heart of a Lion
Unsurprisingly, given his fierce pride, N’Doye was hit hard by Senegal’s group-stage exit at the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, though on a personal level he emerged as one of the team’s few positives, scoring in the opening 2-1 loss to Zambia. “For me, that failure was inexplicable,” he said. “We just have to accept it, get back to work and, above all, avoid repeating a performance like that in the future.”

“Dame [N'Doye] is a really nice guy,” added fellow Senegal striker Moussa Sow, speaking to FIFA.com. “On top of that, he has a huge amount of quality with the ball at his feet. He’s doing great things at Copenhagen and scoring goal after goal. I hope he gets to join an even bigger club.”

He has certainly attracted suitors, but for now N’Doye prefers not to speculate about the future. “There’s no team that I dream about joining in particular,” he said. “I just want to continue enjoying myself and getting people talking about my country. I’m a Lion and being a Lion means never stopping battling for Senegal.”