Global Sports: African Team, African Coach: Senegal Is Making a Strong Statement in Russia

Senegal’s 2002 team, coached by the Frenchman Bruno Metsu, was based almost entirely in France, Senegal’s former colonizer, but the 2018 group is more widely dispersed. N’Diaye plays for an African club, Horoya A.C. in Guinea. The rest of the 23 players are based in Europe or Turkey, some with genuinely elite clubs like Napoli in Italy’s Serie A or Liverpool, where Mané this past season was part of a group that scored at a whirlwind pace in both the Premier League and the Champions League.

With his dreadlocks and his intensity, Cissé, 42, has attracted plenty of attention online and off in Russia, but he looked embarrassed on Saturday when a Russian journalist asked him about his new sex-symbol status.

“I don’t think I’m a sex symbol at all,” he answered. “There are millions and millions of Aliou Cissés in Senegal and the world.”

According to two surveys, Cissé is the lowest paid of the 32 coaches in the World Cup, at an estimated 200,000 euros per year (about $233,000). That is quite a drop-off from German Coach Joachim Löw’s 3.8 million euro salary and quite a distance from the reported 1.5 million euros per year going to the highest-paid coach of an African team — Héctor Cúper, an Argentine who manages Egypt, which already has been eliminated in Russia.

“The wage differential is rather embarrassing, but many African federation officials believe that paying Europeans and South Americans more than Africans is the only way to attract them,” said Peter Alegi, a professor of African history at Michigan State, who has written extensively about African soccer. “Perhaps higher wages to white outsiders also injects a sense of power and status among African officials.”

Foreign coaches have been integral to African soccer from the beginning of the World Cup. In 1934, when Egypt became the first African nation to participate, James McRae, a Scotsman, was the manager. When Morocco became the next African team to participate — in 1970 — the coach was Blagoje Vidinic of Yugoslavia.

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