LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 30 – Liverpool forward Sadio Mane says he was forced to sneak away from home as a teenager to pursue his dream of becoming a footballer.
The 26-year-old has enjoyed a swift rise in European football after joining French side Metz as a youngster from Senegalese football academy, Academie Generation Foot.
Mane moved to Red Bull Salzburg in 2012 and then to Southampton two years later before settling at Anfield, where he has scored 36 goals in 76 games.
However, he says he was initially unable to convince his family to let him leave his hometown of Sedhiou in order to pursue a professional career in Senegal’s capital city Dakar.
“It was a tough moment for me when I was in Senegal, especially when I was young. I was born in a village, I grew up there, and they don’t like football,” Mane told SuperSport.
“My mum, my dad and my uncle preferred me to go to school all the time and study. At that time I was only focusing on being a football player.
“They told me ‘How can you be a football player? It is not possible. This village is far from Dakar, how can you go? We don’t even have family there’.
“But I knew I was going to be a football player, I just didn’t know how. It was the only thing I was doing, the only thing that I knew. Always training, training, training, training.
“They never, ever tried to help me until the day I left my school, I was fifteen or sixteen. I said ‘Now is enough, I have to stop school – I want to be a football player, I have to focus’.
“They said ‘Are you crazy, how?’. I said ‘I don’t know but I will go to Dakar, I don’t know anyone but I can play on the street and hopefully someone can find me.
“I think they thought I was joking but one day I packed all of my luggage, stopped school and went. I didn’t tell anyone but my best friend.
“For one week nobody saw me in the house, or at school, so they tried to call everywhere. They went to my friend and finally he told them that I went to Dakar.
“They found me, they took me from Dakar and took me back home.”
When asked where his passion for football came from, Mane added: “It is from when I was born.
“When I was three or four only football was in my head. I went 10 years and nothing changed, only football, football, football.
“The strange thing is, nobody played football in my family before.”