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Sadio Mane… Uncommon African footballer, great philanthropist

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Senegal winger Sadio Mane smiles after winning the Player of the Year award during the 2019 CAF Awards in the Egyptian resort town of Hurghada on January 7, 2020. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)


Every era has its defining moments for men and women who shape history, either for good or for bad.This, perhaps, captures the story around the newly crowned African Footballer of the Year, Sadio Mane, whose philosophy is not about winning football matches on the pitches alone, but also help others when necessary.

More than one-third of the West African nation’s 15.4 million inhabitants live below the poverty line; so, it would be an understatement to say that Mane’s contribution is a huge help to his people and government of Senegal.

Unlike many other African footballers (both active and retired) that think about themselves and family members alone, Mane believes that a smile could change someone’s destiny for good. So, he will do everything within his limit to put smiles on faces of people around him. Outside the football pitch, the Liverpool striker has proven his ability as an excellent manager of men and resources, as well as a great mobiliser of the youths. Mane has always given back to his community by executing humanitarian projects in different parts of Senegal.

In a society where many people cannot afford quality education, Twitter users were moved by Mane’s heartwarming gesture. One user wrote: “Great to see footballers doing great things off the pitch and thinking of others rather than being self-centered.”At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, Mane’s display of humility came to play, as he granted interviews to every journalists who came to their team’s camp, an attitude that is uncommon among some top African football superstars.

Despite the pressure of trying to win the trophy for Senegal, which failed to qualify for the 2013 AFCON eventually won by the Super Eagles in South Africa, Mane brushed aside security protocol to attend to journalists who are non-Senegalese. That was on the eve of the epic final between Senegal and Algeria.

This writer was one of the journalists that strolled into the Senegalese team camp in search of news after the Super Eagles had ended their journey in the semifinal. After a brief introduction, Mane settled down for the interview. Among other things, the striker told The Guardian that he would use his time and money to alleviate the suffering of his people, particularly elderly men, women and young children.

“They always support me through their prayer, and I have decided not to forget my people,” he said. “Life is about given and take. Maybe, from the little assistance I render to my people, some of the young ones can make a living from it. And I am sure by the time they become successful tomorrow, they will continue from where I stop.

“I am an African, and I feel it is not good to forget your roots, no matter your status and progress in life. We have to take up the challenge of rendering both morale and financial support to our people. And it is my belief that such gesture can go a long way in solving their problem. Education is very important. This is what will enable you to have a good career,” Mane stated.Though the Lions of Teranga lost to Algeria in the finals, all Senegalese fans and supporters inside the Cairo International Stadium went home satisfied with Mane’s effort throughout the match. It was a tight contest, with Senegal pressing the most, but their efforts were not good enough as Algeria triumphed 1-0.

The Nations Cup ended and all the players departed for their various countries. Rather than spent his time flattering his wealth around women of easy venture as the norms with some top African footballers, Mane moved from one construction site to another on his arrival in Senegal to see the extent of works done in the hospital, Mosque and school he was building for people in his community.In his home village of Bambali, he financed the construction of the school at a cost of €270,000. He also financed the construction of hospital in a community in Senegal to alleviate the suffering of his people, particularly women and children. The footballer also built a Mosque for his people to worship.

And in April last year, he donated £200,000 to fund the building of a secondary school in his community.Apart from his humanitarian services for the people, Mane is famous for giving out football kits free to children. He also provides money for some families who can’t afford some basic needs. To some people, Mane’s achievements on and off the pitch could be the reward for his lifestyle of always giving back to the community that raised him.

One of his followers said on Twitter: “Being humble, remembering your roots costs nothing. You die with your money or fancy things you buy, but the good name you made by changing lives of people is a talking point for decades. Mane always makes sure everyone else gets.“People simply cannot resist falling in love with Mane’s actions towards positive contribution and development in the community he came from. Mane has a way of raising the poor.”

The Senegalese forward scored 26 goals in 50 appearances to help Liverpool win their first Champions League title since 2005.Incredibly, 22 of those goals came in the Premier League as the Reds finished runners up behind Manchester City by the slimmest of margins.Mane is clearly a very talented footballer, but he is probably even better at making people happy.His funds have gone into helping kids in Bambali, a place he spent most of his life in Senegal.

Last year, Mane surprised the entire world with display of his humility. The Liverpool top striker was spotted in a viral video where he was helping a bus assistants offload packs of bottled water from the national team bus. The Senegalese national team was going for a football match when the incident happened.One of the highlights of the video was when Mane came down from the bus and helped offload the goods down into the dressing room as his teammates fancifully walked by.

Also last year, a video showing Mane cleaning the toilets at a mosque in Liverpool went viral on social media.One social media user wrote: “Great to see footballers doing great things off the pitch and thinking of others rather than being self-centered.”Another one simply added: “Absolutely love the man.”
Bambali is where Mane watched Liverpool‘s famous comeback against AC Milan to win the 2005 Champions League final – at the age of 13. And his home is never far from his mind.He was named the African Footballer of the Year at a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday, beating his teammate in Liverpool, Egypt’s Mohammed Salah and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez.

Mane’s Player of the Year award is the first for Senegal since El Hadji Diouf, who was also playing for Liverpool at the time, won it in 2002 on the back of an impressive World Cup at Korea/Japan.The 27-year-old striker was due to travel to Senegal the following day after the Awards ceremony in Egypt to take part in celebration party organised by his people. The ceremony was held at the Museum of Black Civilisations in Senegal’s capital Dakar, with the country’s president Macky Sall due to attend

However, “travel disruption beyond both his and the Liverpool’s control” meant Mane was unable to make the visit and would now do so “at the earliest possible opportunity.Mane has apologised for not visiting his homeland before returning to Liverpool after the CAF Awards ceremony in Cairo.“I am of course very happy and proud to win this award and I want to dedicate it to everyone who has helped me on my journey from the very beginning,” Mane told the Liverpool website.

“It was my plan to first fly to Senegal to thank the people of my country and recognise them for everything they have given me on my journey, but unfortunately we were unable to make the visit.“Now, we have a big match against Tottenham (today), which I must focus on and be ready for, but it is true I am disappointed I was unable to return home to say thank you because of some problems beyond our control.

“So, I will return to Senegal as soon as possible because it is something very important to me. I will never forget what everybody did for me, everybody who believed in me and everybody who gave me the chance to play football.Mane is expected to return home at the end of March when Senegal are due to begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, although they are yet to find out who they will play.


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