Sadio Mané: Why I wanted to build a hospital
Sadio Mané is known around the world as a superstar football forward for Premier League leaders Liverpool and the Senegal national team.
But the 28-year-old's incredible rise to the top from a commune in southwestern Senegal – via clubs in France and Austria and the London 2012 Olympic Games – almost never happened.
When the star was just seven years old in his native village of Bambali, a match he was about to play in was interrupted by his cousin, who brought devastating news.
"My cousin approached me and said, 'Sadio, your father passed away'," he says in a new documentary called Sadio Mané: Made in Senegal.
The young Mané thought his cousin was joking. "I really couldn't understand it," he says.
Mané's father – who was an imam in Bambali – had been ill for some time, but without a hospital in the municipality, the family tried traditional medicine. It didn't work, and the Mané patriarch died in a different village.
Due to the security situation in the southern areas of Senegal at the time, the family was unable to bring the body back for burial in Bambali.
The family still gathers every year on the anniversary to recite the Qur'an.
Speaking to the Guardian, Mané said his father's death, and his family's life circumstances, contributed to his decision to build a hospital for his community.
"I remember my sister was also born at home because there is no hospital in our village. It was a really, really sad situation for everyone. I wanted to build one to give people hope."
There is a high degree of poverty in Sédhiou province, in which Bambali lies. "You could only become a farmer, there's no other work there," Mané says in the documentary.
In addition to the hospital, which is in its final stages of construction, Mané also built a school in Bambali. He has also donated money to his country's fight against the coronavirus.
"He's someone with a lot of heart," says Aliou Cissé, Mané's childhood hero and now his national team coach.
Football beginning and Olympic stardom
Coming from a religious family, Mané faced a stumbling block on his path to football stardom. His uncles wanted him to study rather than focus on sport.
So he left secretly for the Senegalese capital Dakar in 2008, although his family found him and he was forced to return to Bambali to complete his last year of school.
A year later and Mané was back in Dakar for good, at the Generation Foot academy. It was there he caught the eye of a scout from French team FC Metz, which he joined in January 2011.
Although Metz had a difficult 2011–12 season in the French second division, suffering relegation, Mané received his big break – a call-up to the Senegalese Olympic team in July 2012.
He helped Senegal to the quarter-finals of the tournament, where they were eliminated in extra time by eventual gold medallists Mexico.
But his performances in both the league season and the Olympics were enough to seal him a move to Austrian Bundesliga team RB Salzburg.
From there, his stock only continued to rise, and after a stint with English club Southampton, Mané ended up at Liverpool in 2016.
Humility and being a role model
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, who admits in the documentary that Mané did not leave a good first impression on him in 2014 when Mané was at Salzburg and Klopp in charge of German team Dortmund, says of his player: "The whole package is what makes Sadio so special."
Mané helped Liverpool to a sixth European Cup in June 2019, earning a phone call from the president of Senegal after the semi-final to congratulate him on his performances.
He returned home to Senegal and Bambali to a hero's welcome. But, if one thing shines through about Mané in the documentary, it's his humility and not letting the success go to his head.
"Millions of people follow me," he notes.
"It's important to try to set a good example for all the young people."