Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Senegal so I know about the atmosphere of this country. I know a lot of people and I know how they go about their lives. Everyone adores football. Football is very important back home. When I was young, every time the Nations Cup was taking place, we all got behind the national team. I’d watch the games with my big brothers and my mates. Now the tournament is arriving again and the people believe in our chances. It was a beautiful tournament to experience from the outside, now I will experience it as a player and I hope to be able to give our fans a lot of pleasure.
You left for Switzerland at a young age. Did you play for an academy in Senegal before that?
Yes, I played in an academy, then I joined the local team from my region Thiès. I left for Switzerland very young but I have kept a lot of great memories from my time in Senegal and I’m still in contact with a lot of my friends from the academy.
How hard was it leaving home for Switzerland?
It wasn’t easy for me at the start in Switzerland because I had to get used to another culture and another way of living. It took me about six months to adapt. After that I just got on with things and it went very well. I was helped by little things like the telephone because even if you can’t see you family it’s nice to be able to speak to them from time to time.
When you go back home what is the first thing you eat?
The first thing I eat when I get home, well it’s the dish that everyone in Senegal likes to eat! It is called ‘thiep bou dien’. It’s the national dish. It’s so nice and pleasant to share it with your family, everyone around the table, that’s what I miss the most. When I go back to Senegal the first thing I order is a big bowl of ‘thiep bou dien’.
Do you feel nostalgic about anything in particular when you go home? A certain smell or local traditions that you don’t have in France?
I always feel a bit nostalgic when I go home and see the way things are in my country. When you wake up in the morning and gather around a tree to drink Senegalese tea and have a chat. Moments like that make you want to return home. There are moments of happiness when you find your family and get the chance to do normal things that you can’t do so often in Europe.
Have you enjoyed any French traditions? I imagine you have to eat ‘la galette saucisse’ (sausage pancakes), the local delicacy in Rennes?
(laughs) Well, I like the pancakes but I don’t eat sausages.
What are the main characteristics of Senegalese people?
Hospitality is something that Senegalese people are taught from a young age. They are also brought up to be hard working. I think that’s the charm of the country.
What are Senegalese fans like compared to French fans?
The Senegalese supporters never give up. They stay behind the team right until the end. They sing wherever they go. They’re noisy. You’ll hear them. They like singing and they like motivating the team. They are hard working people but they know that there is a time to party as well. So trust me, you can count on them to create a party atmosphere.