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“Attitudes are changing in Senegal”

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At 27, Mame Khady Pouye has made her dream come true: to be a professional footballer. For five years, this Senegalese has been playing in the Dakar Sacré-Coeur. As women’s football develops around the world, and in particular in Africa, thanks to the impetus of FIFA, she testifies to France 24 about the evolution of mentalities in her discipline.

Women are the future of African football and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), like Fifa, have understood this well. Although the Women’s African Cup of Nations (CAN) will take place in Morocco in July 2022, the year 2021 was marked by the first edition of the first African Women’s Champions League. A competition in which the Dakar Sacré-Coeur, champion of Senegal in 2021, played the preliminary round.

“Women’s football is developing. Here in Senegal, we see a demand that is increasing year after year,” says Matthieu Chupin, president and founder of the Dakar Sacré-Coeur (DSC).

Also read:Dakar Sacré-Coeur: “Senegal has extraordinary sporting potential”

Mame Khady Pouye has made her childhood dream come true: she, who has been trying leather since she was 10 years old, is now a professional footballer. The 27-year-old number 14 plays as a right-back for DSC, OL’s partner on the African continent. Gathered by France 24 in Dakar, he recounts the evolution of women’s football in her country.

France 24: In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the number of footballers in the world. Is it the same in Senegal?

Mamé Khady Pouye: I have been in the Dakar Sacré-Coeur since the beginning of the women’s team. Five years have already passed. This increase in the number of players is a good thing: in recent years, women’s football has developed in Senegal, in particular thanks to FIFA’s policies. It is an opportunity for us!

At the moment, in Senegal, women’s football is not yet fully professionalized. Therefore, some teams have high-level players and others do not. Match scores can be huge. But I think it will soften. A new generation arrives: U15, U17 (the categories of young people under 15 and 17 years old, editor’s note) who have had the opportunity to integrate training centers. With your work, you will improve.

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And not all clubs pay a salary: for me, it only started here at the Dakar Sacré-Coeur. It is not enough to live, so I work separately, but now I have the opportunity to be in a very good structure to live my passion.

Soccer is often seen as a sport for men. Have you ever had to deal with this mindset problem?

Mentalities are changing. We see that here in Senegal women’s football is more and more accepted. Before it was not even tolerated; before, it was not easy for us to play football. The family did not want… Now there is more understanding. There are even some parents who encourage their daughter to register.

>> To read: Cameroon: at the “Rails Football Academy”, young footballers deal with prejudices

It happened to me personally. I had an aunt who was totally opposed to me playing soccer. She told me to study first. But the more I advanced in my studies, the less I played football…. Of course I was late. I had to wait until I had a diploma, a license in logistics, to re-enter. Now my family has accepted the situation and accompanies me.

The girls train as seriously as the boys, if not more. © Romain Houeix, France 24

Do you think it is easier for boys to become professional footballers than women?

It’s easier for the guys than for us. Men’s football is more developed and they earn more money.

But we help each other. We help each other progress and move forward. We go out together, we go to the beach, we eat together. We have very, very strong ties off the pitch.

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