No limits for talented Tanjy as Mauritania chase World Cup breakthrough

2 Sep 2021
  • Hemeya Tanjy is one of the leading scorers in the Mauritanian league

  • Discusses his aims ahead of the second round of the Qatar 2022 qualifiers

  • Mauritania drawn in Group B with Tunisia, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea

Hemeya Tanjy might not be a household name but he has a gift for scoring from almost anywhere. A forward with Mauritanian outfit Nouadhibou and the national team, he is one of the leading players in the African country’s top flight.

Last season he topped the league’s scoring charts and helped his side win the title. Not one to rest on his laurels, he now hopes to inspire his team in the second round of the African qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which begins this month.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” the young forward said in an interview with FIFA.com. “I’m going to represent my country in a World Cup qualifying competition. It gives me even more motivation to do my very best, show the coach he can depend on me, and consolidate my place in the team. I’ve got faith in my abilities and anything is possible in football.”

Mauritania coach Corentin Martins will need his players to be fit and firing if they are to compete in a group that also features Tunisia, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea.

Despite the calibre of the opposition, Tanjy is ready for the challenge: “Matches at this level are always tough, but we’re a competitive side. We might not have any stars or massively talented players, but we’re a proper unit and that’s where our strength lies. There’s a great connection between the players because most of them have been with the national team for the last seven or eight years, which helps a lot.”

He added: “We’re not scared of anyone in our group. I know Tunisia are there and they’re a powerful side, but we’ve played them many times already.”

The 23-year-old forward has not been called up on a whim. After impressing for the U-20 and U-23 sides, he ran out for the full national team at the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco. Martins then called Tanjy up for the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, though he ended up playing no part in the tournament.

No lack of self-belief

Like many youngsters in Africa, Tanjy discovered football in the streets, in his case in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, the city where he grew up.

“I played football in the street with my friends and I’ve got happy memories of those days,” he recalled. “My mother was very supportive. I was a big fan of Lionel Messi, who was a very positive influence on me.

"When I pulled his shirt on I imagined I was him and I used my left foot, just like him. That’s why I can play with both feet now. Most of the goals I’ve scored in my career up to now have actually been with my left.”

The Nouadhibou forward is now dreaming big, determined not to put any limits on what he can achieve: “It’s my self-confidence that’s taken me this far. I was sure I’d turn professional one day because if you put the work in you get rewarded for it.”

“I played street football until I joined Skok Club and then I played for the youth teams at Zamzam Club,” continued the Mauritania international. “It was then that the National Football Academy spotted me and my career took a different path.

"I spent a few years at the academy, playing in the youth leagues, before I moved to Tidjikdja and won a few titles and awards with them, including the league’s leading goalscorer and best young player. And since 2018 I’ve been with Nouadhibou, in the first division.”

A source of stability

Sport nourishes the soul and gives meaning to life, as Tanjy can vouch for. He is grateful to everyone who has helped him develop and for everything the game has given him.

“I’m an only child. I don’t have any brothers,” he explained. “Normally it’s your older brother who gives you advice, but in my case that part’s been played by the coaches who spotted my talent. They’ve always encouraged me to work hard and progress, which is why I’ve not had the time to do anything else.

"When you’re young you can be led astray. It happens to a lot of people and maybe it would have happened to me, but football gave me stability. I work really hard in training and I’ve achieved a lot. I haven’t fulfilled my dream yet, though. I want to play for a big club like Barcelona and win a lot of titles with my country.”