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FIFA World Cup 2018: The Rise Of Aliou Cisse2 min read

Aliou Cisse

Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse has certainly caught the attention of the world as he became the only black manager at the World cup and also the youngest at the age of 42. But Cisse as a manager, is a perfectionist, with a no-nonsense approach and he pays attention to every small detail that needs to be looked into. It’s a trait that dates back to his time as the captain of the Lions of Teranga. He was the captain that led Senegal to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World cup in Japan and South Korea which was the highlight of his mixed career. The same year, his Senegal lost the African Cup of Nations to Cameroon in the final and at the end of his career that he called quits in 2005, he had not won a single international trophy for his country and this very reason is his driving force to become a successful manager.

One could say he had a career of heartbreaks but Salif Diao, who played with Cissé between 2000 to 2005, remembers him as a fighter.

“The day we lost 2002 Afcon final to Cameroon, we were sharing rooms,” Diao says.

“Cissé was so gutted and he said to me: ‘Salif, this trophy was in my hands. I was holding it with one hand and Cameroon stole it from me’.

Diao says he also remembers Cissé vowing, “If I don’t win it as a player, I will win it one day as a coach.”

This level of determination and willpower has been a permanent feature of his career.“His determination makes him who he is and that’s why he was our captain,” says former teammate Salif Diao.

“He had the voice, he had the words that needed to be put on the table to get everyone going,” he added.

“After he gave a speech to the team, we all would put on the mask of a lion.”

Cissé was born in 1976 in Ziguinchor in the Casamance region, the same region where the current Senegal superstar captain Sadio Mane is from. He started his career in Senegal and later moved to France and England. Kara Thioune, a Senegalese journalist traveling with the Senegal national team in Russia, says Cissé is a born leader.

“He is the embodiment of a real lion. He is very proud and confident in himself. He believes that the sky is not even his limit,” says Thioune.

His coaching career started in 2012 as the u-23 Senegal coach. in 2015, he became the manager for the Senegal national team. But in the end, it was more heartbreak for Cisse as Senegal narrowly missed out on qualifying because they had received two more yellow cards than Japan.

Thioune believes Cissé’s success lies in the relationship he has forged over the years with members of the current squad.

“They respect him because he helped most of them to become the superstars that they are today,” the journalist says.

“He is like a good father who plays and jokes with his kids, but when it’s time to gets serious he becomes a soldier.”

Thioune says head coach Cissé also drills his team as if they were soldiers.

“When it’s time to sleep, they all sleep, when it’s time to eat they are expected to eat. He has a very tough code of conduct which is respected by everybody.”

But he is a fighter and his mission is to do well and pave the way for other African coaches to manage at the highest level.

He joins the late Nigerian Stephen Keshi as the only black African coaches to have led teams at the World Cup.

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