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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Mane concussion controversy continues - ‘Senegal don’t play with players’ health’

16:48 GMT 29/01/2022
Sadio Mane challenged Vozinha, Senegal vs Cape Verde
Aliou Cisse is unhappy with suggestions that the Teranga Lions are not taking due care with their players

Aliou Cisse is unwilling to accept that Senegal are being reckless with their players’ health after allowing Sadio Mane to play on despite suffering a head injury in the Teranga Lions’ Africa Cup of Nations Last 16 victory over Cape Verde.

The Liverpool forward fell prone to the turf after a 56th-minute clash of heads with opposition goalkeeper Vozinha as the pair competed for a high ball.

While the Cape Verde stopper was removed immediately after appearing to be knocked out before promptly being sent off, Mane remained on the field for a further quarter of an hour— opening the scoring with a close-range effort in the 63rd minute.

“I can reassure you that the health of Mane and all the players I have at my availability at the moment is very important,” Cisse told GOAL ahead of Sunday’s Afcon quarterfinal against Equatorial Guinea. “We don’t play with our players’ health, nor do our doctors.

“We are professionals as well, so while the result is important, the health of our players doesn’t go above the importance of the results.”

Brain injury association Headway was just one organisation that accused Senegal and the Confederation of African Football of putting Mane's health at risk following the incident on Tuesday.

"On the face of it, this seems to be yet another example of football putting results ahead of player safety," deputy chief executive Luke Griggs said, as per BBC Sport.

"This was a sickening collision that clearly left both players in enough distress for a concussion to have surely been considered a possibility at the very least. At that point, the principle of 'if in doubt, sit it out!' should have resulted in Mane being substituted without another ball being kicked."

Senegal doctor Abdourahmane Fedior also said in a statement that while Mane’s condition requires further assessment, examinations have shown no trace of concussion.

"All the symptoms he had on the pitch are gone,” the doctor began. “His condition requires fairly close monitoring. Everything is normal on the X-ray.”

Cisse remains confident that, even though it’s not certain that Mane will be fit to feature against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, there’s optimism that the Teranga Lions will be able to welcome back their talisman for the Last Eight bout.

“Sadio is doing well,” Cisse continued. "He returned to training yesterday, and we’re continuously following his progress. [On Saturday] he will train.

“The [head] clash between two players [in the Cape Verde game] was serious, but he’s a sportsman of the highest level and he knows his body well,” the Senegal head coach continued. “Today we will see the training session to see how it goes. Yesterday went well so it’s reassuring, we hope to have him back for the match.”

Senegal are aiming to win their first-ever Nations Cup, having previously reached the final in 2002 and 2019.

The winner of their meeting with Equatorial Guinea will face the victor of Burkina Faso vs Tunisia at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde on February 2.