Speaking to France Football, Liverpool and Senegal attacker Sadio Mané explained his attempt to flee to Dakar at the age of 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a footballer, when his family forbade him to drop out of his studies.
“I prepared everything down to the minutiae, knowing that I did not have any money at all. At sunset, I hid in the tall grass, in front of my house, my sports bag with my things so that I wasn’t surprised when leaving. And early the following morning, at around 06:00, I brushed my teeth and didn’t even take a shower. I left without telling anyone, apart from my best friend. I walked for a long time to meet up with a friend who loaned me some money so that I could take the bus to Dakar. There, I was welcomed by a family who I did not know. I immediately took part in training sessions at recognised teams. But my parents were looking for me everywhere. They were convinced that my best friend knew where I was. He held on, he did not say anything. But my family and his, they put terrible pressure on him, and he eventually gave me up. My parents then called me to demand that I return home. I did not want to because I was ashamed to come back but I ended up agreeing on the condition that they would let me try my luck (at football) once the school year was over.”
On his first trials:
There were 200 or 300 youngsters who were waiting in line for their chance, it started badly for me because when I presented myself, I was laughed at. I did not look like a footballer. I was wearing pants that looked nothing like football shorts. And my football boots were completely shredded on the sides and had been repaired by me with wire the best I could. Those who oversaw the trials would look at me with a bizarre facial expression: “You really want to become a footballer?” I understood them but I did not have a choice… As I was not that bad, they took me. That was the beginning of my adventure.