Africa Cup of Nations

Crystal Palace’s Kouyate reveals how Senegal trained with cameraman and kitman at Afcon

9:24 PM GMT 15/02/2022
Senegal's midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate
The 32-year-old narrated how the Lions of Teranga’s title-winning expedition was nearly derailed at the beginning

Cheikhou Kouyate disclosed Senegal drafted the team's cameraman and kitman in the squad en route to winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Before the commencement of the tournament held in Cameroon, the Lions of Teranga were among the favourites to conquer Africa due to the quality of players in Aliou Cisse’s squad.

However, that looked like a near-impossible task as several players tested positive for Covid - albeit, the West Africans qualified for the knockout phase despite scoring just one goal.

Senegal regrouped as the tournament progressed and they eventually lifted the diadem after silencing Egypt on penalties in the final at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

Recounting his country’s tortuous journey to glory, Kouyate narrated how the historic campaign was almost ruined.

“We had a very bad start,” the 32-year-old told the Crystal Palace website.

“If you look at the team before the first game, we lost 10 players because they had Covid.

“We didn’t have a goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, wingers, strikers. It’s too much.

“In training, we prepared for the game using the staff: the cameraman, the kitman. The kitman was training with us because we didn’t have people for training! He was playing left-back because we needed to do tactical work.

“The first two games were played like that, and it was not easy – but after the third game everyone was back.”

With Senegal in dilemma, their chances were dismissed but the former West Ham United centre-back stated his team drew inspiration from that to prove doubters wrong.

“We scored only one goal [in the group stage] and it was a penalty,” he continued.

“Everyone says: ‘Senegal are so bad!’ But I think this helped us.

“Imagine you win the first game, you win the second game and everyone would say: ‘Oh Senegal, look at Senegal.' But nobody in this tournament was waiting for Senegal.

“After three games they said: ‘No, Senegal will not win anything. They are going to go home.”

Kouyate’s return to Selhurst Park is a massive boost to manager Patrick Vieira as the Eagles square up against Chelsea in a Premier League fixture on Saturday.