‘Changing attitudes in Senegal’

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At the age of 27, Mame Khady Pouye has realized her dream: to become a professional football player. This Senegalese has been playing in the Dakar Sacré-Coeur for five years. While women’s football is developing all over the world, and especially in Africa, thanks to the impetus of FIFA, for France 24 it bears witness to the evolution of the mentality in its discipline.

Women are the future of African football and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), like FIFA, has understood this well. While the Women’s African Cup of Nations (CAN) will take place in Morocco in July 2022, 2021 was all about the inaugural edition of the first African Women’s Champions League. A match in which Dakar Sacré-Coeur, champion of Senegal in 2021, contested the preliminary round.

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

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

As a little girl, Mame Khady Pouye realized her dream: she, who has been trying out since she was ten years old, is now a professional football player. The 27-year-old number 14 plays as a right back at DSC, OL’s partner on the African continent. She met France 24 in Dakar and talks about the evolution of women’s football in her country.

France 24: In recent years we have seen an explosion in the number of female football players in the world. Is that also the case in Senegal?

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

For the time being, women’s football in Senegal has not yet been fully professionalized. Some teams therefore have high level players and others do not. Match scores can be huge. But I think it will flow naturally. A new generation is coming: U15s, U17s (the categories of young people under 15 and 17, editor’s note) who have had the opportunity to integrate training centers. With their work it will improve.

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

Football is often seen as a men’s sport. Have you ever faced this mentality problem?

Changing mindsets. We see that here in Senegal women’s football is becoming more and more accepted. It used to be not even tolerated; it used to be not easy for us to play football. The family didn’t want to… Now there is more understanding. There are even parents who motivate their daughter to enroll.

>> To read: Cameroon: On the “Rails Football Academy” young female footballers dribble prejudice

It happened to me personally. I had an aunt who was totally against me playing football. She said I had to study first. But the further I progressed in my studies, the less I played football…. Of course I was late. I had to wait for a diploma, a license in logistics, to get back in. Now my family has accepted the situation and is coming with me.

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

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

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

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

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