Senegal forward Sadio Mane has revealed how he was ready to die if that is what it took to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations for his country.
Mane collided with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha, who rushed out of his area to chase a 50-50 ball, during their last-16 clash at the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon and both players were left shaken after hitting the ground.
The goalkeeper was unsteady on his feet after the incident and was subsequently sent off for his part in the collision while Mane continued and scored a few minutes later but he was then substituted as he went down just before play restarted.
Senegal would win the match 2-0 to advance to the quarter-finals and with Mane taken to the nearest hospital as a precaution, there were doubts whether he would feature in the last-eight clash against Equatorial Guinea five days later.
“When I got injured against Cape Verde and I had concussion, I never talked about it that day. Liverpool put pressure on the federation and wrote a letter to Fifa that I needed at least five days rest so that meant I was to miss the quarter-finals,” Mane said during an interview with Pro Direct Soccer France.
He added: “Our national team doctor also had to follow those rules. When they told me that, I called the coach and told him; ‘The doctor does not want me to play but you have to put me in the starting 11’. I called the federation president and told him we need to have a meeting because I have to play. I could give up my life.”
“I said, ‘I know I shouldn’t play but let us have a contract. It will be my responsibility, I will sign.’ If I die, they have to say it is my fault. No one’s fault. But they said; ‘Sadio, you cannot play’ but I said; ‘no, no, it is out of the question.’ It was around 1am or 2am, everyone panicked and I said; ‘Coach, I know even you are scared. Just write a letter that says I played voluntarily in case I die or whatever happens,’. Everyone was tensed.”
“I did not sign the paper but they finally said; ‘no, no it’s not possible’ but I was ready to do it so the doctor said; ‘Okay, let us do a scan in the morning the day of the match.’ In the morning, we did the scan, we sent it to Caf, they checked with the doctor, there was nothing so the doctor said; ‘Okay, you can play,’ because to see me sign a paper would be complicated for him as well. Thank God everything went well.”
Mane would play 90 minutes of the game that Senegal won 3-1 to set up a semi-final date with Burkina Faso two days later, who they beat by the same score line with the now Bayern Munich forward scoring the third goal.
Senegal took on Egypt in the final and won 4-2 on post-match penalties following a goalless draw after extra time as the Teranga Lions finally claimed their maiden continental title.
“The Afcon is the most important trophy in my career. I have fought so hard to win it since watching Gambia eliminate Senegal when I was still a school kid. I vowed to ensure I win something with my country. I have made so many sacrifices and even played Afcon 2015 with an injury,” concluded Mane.