Sénégal / Senegal
- Capital: Dakar
- Population: 15,854,323 (2018 estimate)
- Official Language: French
- Lingua Franca: Wolof
- National Languages: Arabic, Balanta, Jola-Fonyi, Mandinka, Mandjak, Mankanya, Noon, Pulaar, Serer, Soninke
- Men’s Team Nicknames: Les Lions de la Téranga (The Lions of Teranga)
- Women’s Team Nicknames: Les Lionnes de la Téranga (The Lionesses of Teranga)
- Association: Fédération Sénégalaise de Football (FSF)
- Top Male Domestic League: Championnat Ligue 1
- Top Female Domestic League: Senegalese Women’s Championship
- FIFA Code: SEN
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2002)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON Result (Men): Runners-Up (2002, 2019)
- Best AFCON Result (Women): Group Stage (1991, 2012)
- Best CHAN Result (Men): Fourth Place (2009)
- Best WAFU Nations Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (2019)
- Best WAFU Zone A Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (2020)
- Best COSAFA Cup Result (Men): Runners-Up (2021)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 20th (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 75th (June 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 99th (June 2013)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 102nd (August 2003)
- Most Capped Player: Henri Camara – 99 Caps
- Top Scorer: Henri Camara – 29 Goals
Introduction & Brief History
Senegal or Sénégal, officially The Republic of Senegal (République du Sénégal), is a country that is situated in West Africa. Senegal virtually surrounds the small country of The Gambia whilst it is bordered by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal is uniquely known for being the westernmost country in the mainland of the “Old World” or the Afro-Eurasia landmass. The name Senegal comes from the Senegal River that forms the border between the country and Mauritania. Meanwhile, the name of the river may come from a Portuguese transliteration of the Zenaga (a Berber language on the verge of extinction), also known as the Sanhaja. Another possibility could be that it comes from a combination of the supreme deity in the Serer religion (Rog Sene) and o gal which translates from the Serer language as ‘body of water‘. One final possibility points towards the Wolof phrase Sunuu Gaal, meaning ‘our boat’.
The early history of Senegal can be traced back to prehistoric times through archaeological findings throughout the area which shows the country has been continually occupied by various ethnic groups. One of the earliest known kingdoms in the area was Takrur, an ancient state of West Africa that flourished from the year 800 to 1285 on the lower Senegal river. During the period of the 13th and 14th centuries, Senegal was to become influenced by the empires to the east of the area. Also during this same time, the Jolof Empire of Senegal was founded. By the mid 15th century, the Portuguese had arrived on the Senegalese coastline and were followed by traders that represented several other nations, one of whom was the French. Towards the end of the 17th century, the French had gained control of the island of Gorée which was just 1,2 miles off the main harbour of Dakar. The location of the island is shown in the map below:
The island is also known as being the location of a building called ‘The House of Slaves‘ which was built between 1780 to 1784. The House of Slaves building is one of the oldest constructions to be found on the island. Today it is used as a tourist destination in order to show the horrors of the inhumane and disgusting slave trade throughout the Atlantic world.
During the mid 1850s, the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland, following their abolishment of slavery, French colonists gradually took over most of the kingdoms in the area. Fast forward 100 years and Senegal became an autonomous republic within the French Community. In January 1959, both Senegal and French Sudan combined to formulate the Mali Federation which gained full independence on 20th June 1960. Due to political infighting, the Mali Federation was rather short-lived and was to break up in August 1960 when both Senegal and French Sudan (renamed as the Republic of Mali) each declared their own independence.
With regards to football in Senegal, the game was introduced to the country in the early 20th century during the French colonial rule by French soldiers who played football in order to keep fit and healthy. One of the oldest clubs in Senegal is ASC Jeanne d’Arc who were founded on 23rd April 1923 and are also one of the most successful clubs in the country. The love of the game spread around the country over the years and saw more and more clubs being established which eventually led to the formation of the Fédération Sénégalaise de Football (FSF) in 1960. In 1963 the association became members of CAF and one year later members of FIFA.
The first international game featuring a team from Senegal was actually played shortly before the country gained independence. Under the name of French Senegal, the team made the short journey to the British Gambia (now The Gambia) in 1959 and won the game by 2 goals to 1. As a fully independent nation, Senegal played their first game on 31st December 1961 against Dahomey (now known as Benin) and narrowly lost 3-2.
Over the years football in Senegal has grown in popularity with the national team becoming one of the strongest in the whole of Africa and with many Senegalese players going onto grace the game in some of the top leagues around the world. Despite being one of the strongest teams in Africa, Senegal have yet to win an AFCON tournament. They only started to become regular qualifiers to the continental competition from the late 1980s onwards and have been runners-up on two occasions – reaching the 2002 (losing to Cameroon on penalties after a goalless draw) and 2019 finals (losing 1-0 to Algeria). They are most famous for having an incredible debut appearance in the World Cup when they reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 edition, beating defending champions France at the start of the campaign, to become just the second African nation to reach the final eight of the competition. In addition, they recently appeared in their second World Cup finals appearance in 2018 and were incredibly unfortunate not to progress to the knockout stage, finishing third behind Japan who had an almost identicial record but progressed due to receiving fewer yellow cards over the three group games.
Les Lions de la Téranga have qualified for the upcoming AFCON tournament this winter and will be considered one of the favourites for the title, especially having been drawn in a favourable group alongside Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Malawi. They were also the highest-ranked team in the 2022 World Cup draw and have comfortably progressed to the third and final round of World Cup qualifying, meaning they will be considered one of the strongest favourites to obtain one of the five African berths for the competition held in Qatar.
Senegal National Team
Q. Who is Senegal’s best player of all-time?
As I mentioned in the recent Gambia blog that I wrote for this series, nearly 20 years ago I was lucky enough to visit The Gambia twice. As The Gambia is completely surrounded by Senegal, it probably comes as no surprise that I met a lot of Senegalese football supporters during my two visits. The player that the majority of people were talking about being the best Senegalese player at that time was the midfielder Khalilou Fadiga.
Khalilou Fadiga moved from Senegal to France with his family when he was six years old and as a junior player, he played for a local team before signing for Paris Saint-Germain in 1989. Sadly Fadiga failed to make an impression at PSG and was transferred to fellow Parisian club Red Star FC before going onto sign for the Belgian club RFC Liège. The midfielder enjoyed one season with RFC Liège before being transferred to Lommel SK, and impressed whilst playing with them so much that in 1997 he was signed by the Belgian giants Club Brugge. Fadiga spent a wonderful four years with Club Brugge and he was playing for the club when he won the first of his 37 international caps for Senegal in 2000. The Senegalese star was then transferred to Auxerre in France with whom he won the 2002-03 Coupe de France. It was in 2002 when he really made his name in international football as he was one of the stars in the Senegal team that enjoyed a momentous 2002 World Cup. Later in his career, Khalilou Fadiga developed a heart problem which doctors warned him could end his life if he continued to play. Undeterred he carried on to play the game he loved and played for the likes of Bolton Wanderers, and Coventry City, before ending his career back in Belgian football with Lokeren-Temse.
Other players who could claim the title as the best Senegalese player of all time include Fadiga’s teammates from that brilliant Senegal World Cup Squad in 2002, namely Henri Camara [striker who is currently Senegal’s international record appearance maker and goal scorer having earned 99 caps and scoring 29 goals between 1999 and 2008], El Hadji Diouf [winger or forward who scored 24 goals in 70 appearances for the national team between 2000 and 2008], and Salif Diao [defensive midfielder who earned 39 caps and scored 4 goals between 2000 and 2009]. However, my pick for the best of all time from Senegal would be between two current players in the national team, the 29-year-old Liverpool striker Sadio Mané, or the 29-year-old Chelsea goalkeeper Édouard Mendy.
The careers that Mané and Mendy are having really do speak for themselves – Mané has been an integral part of Liverpool’s success since joining them from Southampton in 2016. He has won an English Premier League in 2019-20, the UEFA Champions League in 2019, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in the same year with the Reds. Mané was the EPL top goalscorer in the 2018-19 season and became only the third African player to score over 100 goals in the Premier League, and has been twice named in the top five players in the world. With Mendy, you have a very talented goalkeeper who since joining Chelsea in 2020 (from Rennes) has already won the UEFA Champions League in 2021 with them and has produced some excellent performances so far this season. Added to this he was also named as the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Season for the 2020-21 campaign. It really is a close call but as a former goalkeeper myself, I have to give the accolade of the best Senegalese player of all time to Édouard Mendy.
Q. Who is currently the best player in the national side?
It goes without saying that my choice for this accolade must go to the aforementioned Édouard Mendy, closely followed by Sadio Mané. But for the purpose of the question, I would also like to give a mention to another of the top players currently playing for the current Senegalese national team, and that player is the current captain of the team, the 30-year-old Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.
Kalidou Koulibaly started his career with Metz in France (he was born in France to Senegalese parents) before going on to play for KRC Genk in Belgium. He then signed for his current club, the Italian side Napoli in 2014, and he is adored by the club’s supporters. At the time of writing, Koulibaly has played over 200 games for Napoli and is widely considered by many to be one of the best ball-playing central defenders in world football. That notion is backed up by the fact that as well as his fine play for this club, he has also played more than fifty times for his country. Added to this is the fact that Koulibaly in recent times has been named in both the Serie A Team of the Season on four occasions and the CAF equivalent three times. You don’t get that accolade unless you are a top player!
Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
There are several young players from Senegal who could be considered exciting talents and players to keep an eye on for the future. The first one that I have picked out is the 19-year-old midfielder, Pape Matar Sarr. Sarr was signed by English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur for £14.6 million in August 2021 from the French Ligue 1 club Metz. The Director of Football at Tottenham, Fabio Paratici, spoke of Sarr as being “one of the best young midfielders in Europe”. To help with his development and to ensure regular first-team football, Tottenham then loaned him back to Metz for the duration of the 2021-22 season. Sarr had already spent the entirety of the 2020-21 season with the Lorraine club and played 25 Ligue 1 games and scored 3 goals in the process. Sarr recently was in impressive form whilst playing for Metz against the mighty Paris Saint-Germain and did not look out of place amongst the galaxy of stars on the pitch. The Thiaroye-born prospect made his debut for the Senegalese national team on 26th March 2021 in an AFCON Qualifier against Congo. Since making his international debut, he has gone on to play a further two times for his country and was most recently in the squad for the October 2021 World Cup Qualifier against Namibia. The future certainly looks very bright for this rising star of the game.
The next player I have picked out is the 23-year-old right-back Moussa Wagué, who began his career with the Aspire Academy in Qatar, and who is currently a Barcelona player but recently on loan with the Greek club PAOK. Sadly the last time this promising youngster was able to play the game was back in December 2020 when he was in the PAOK side that took on Aris Thessaloniki. During that game, Wagué suffered a terrible injury which after medical examinations was found to be a ruptured patellar tendon. The injury was described as career-threatening and, at the time of writing, the right-back has not been able to play since. However, there are hopes are that he will return to action at some point. Despite his relatively young age and injury, Wagué has played 21 times for Senegal, making his debut against Nigeria in March 2017. He was also a member of the Senegalese squad that took part in the 2018 World Cup, and made history by becoming the youngest African goalscorer at a World Cup when he found the net in a 2-2 game against Japan during the group phase.
Aside from the two exciting Senegalese players that I have previously mentioned, other notable inclusions are Youssouph Badji [19-year-old forward currently with Stade Brestois, but on loan from Belgian side Club Brugge], Abdallah Sima [20-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion forward who is on loan at Stoke City], and Krépin Diatta [22-year-old winger currently with Ligue 1 side Monaco]. With many more talented players coming through the youth teams, the future of Senegalese football certainly looks in good hands!
Q. What is the current state/performance of the national team?
If we answer this question by starting in 2019 and bringing it right up to the present day then the form of the national team can be considered as being very good indeed! In July 2019, Senegal finished as runners-up in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, losing to Algeria 1-0 in the final. It goes without saying that, ideally, they would have liked to have won the tournament but this was still their best performance in the AFCON since 2002!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senegal only played two games in 2020 which were both qualifying games for the 2021 AFCON tournament. Ironically both of these games were also against the same team, Guinea-Bissau, and both resulted in victories for Les Lions de la Téranga, 2-0 at home in Thiès and 1-0 away in Bissau.
In 2021 (at the time of writing), Senegal has played 14 games during those games they have recorded 10 wins, 2 draws, and 2 defeats. The two highlights from 2021 for the team would be qualifying for the 2021 AFCON tournament and reaching the final of the 2021 COSAFA Cup against South Africa. The 2021 COSAFA Cup was the 20th edition of the COSAFA Cup consisting of teams from the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations. Senegal was invited to take part in the regional tournament as a guest team, and they made it all the way to the final only to be beaten by South Africa 5-4 on penalties after the game finished 0-0 after extra time.
Since that COSAFA Cup final defeat, Senegal has played four more games which were all qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup Finals, and they have won all of them. It appears that the national team is in a great period of form which all bodes well for the rest of their World Cup qualifying campaign and, who knows, it may lead to greater things in 2022!
Q. Looking at Senegal’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team?
Unquestionably, their greatest performance was qualifying for their debut World Cup appearance, reaching the finals of the 2002 tournament held in South Korea and Japan. They were drawn in the tough group alongside Uruguay, Denmark, and the defending European and World champions, and their former colonial masters, France. In their first group game against Les Bleus, Senegal stunned international football by defeating the defending champions 1-0 in Seoul, with Papa Bouba Diop getting the only goal of the game. An incredible result for so many reasons but introduced this golden generation of Senegalese players into the public light. They would subsequently earn a 1-1 draw with Denmark in their second group game, before blowing a 3-0 lead against Uruguay to draw 3-3 against the former world champions. Nonetheless, Les Lions de la Téranga had stayed undefeated in their tough group and finished in the second position, ahead of both Uruguay and (surprisingly) a lackluster France.
The Round of 16 saw Senegal take on another Scandinavian country in the form of Group F winners Sweden at Ōita. Despite conceding after just 11 minutes, Henri Camara equalised in the 37th minute, and with neither side being able to conjure up a decisive second goal, the game eventually went into extra time. Camara would again be the hero of the team when he scored a 104th golden goal winner in the first half of extra time to send Les Lions into the quarter-finals – only the second African team to achieve the feat, and twelve years since Cameroon first did it. In the quarter-finals, they took on another surprise package in the form of Turkey at Osaka. This game would be a lot tighter than their match against the Swedes with neither side being able to provide a breakthrough over 90 minutes. For the second time, Senegal’s game went into extra time although not many minutes were played of it. Having reached the last eight on a golden goal, they were foiled at reaching the last four for the same reason with Turkey scoring in the fourth minute of extra time to send them through the semi-finals. Despite the disappointment of not reaching the semi-finals, they had still performed way beyond their pre-tournament predictions and had done the country incredibly proud. This was an amazing time in Senegalese football and one that will be remembered by football fans around the world!
Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Senegal national team?
For me, this has to be the Le Coq Sportif-made white shirt that was worn by the iconic 2002 World Cup team.
Senegalese Domestic Football
Q. What is the Senegalese football pyramid like?
At the time of writing, the Senegalese football pyramid has three tiers with promotion and relegation.
- Tier 1 – Championnat Ligue 1
- Tier 2 – Championnat Ligue 2 (2 Groups)
- Tier 3 – Regional Leagues
The Championnat Ligue 1 was first contested in 1956 and was initially won by Reveil de Saint-Louis, although this championship was pre-independence. The first champion of an independent Senegal was the Dakar-based club ASC Jeanne d’Arc in 1960. The national top-flight is made up of 16 teams who will play each other twice to create a 30-game league season with the winners qualifying for the following season’s CAF Champions League. The bottom two placed teams in the league are relegated to the Championnat Ligue 2 for the following season and replaced by the two group winners from the second tier.
As well as domestic league football there are also two cup competitions held in Senegal. The first is the Senegal FA Cup which is a traditional knockout-style cup competition. It was first contested in 1961 and was won by the brilliantly named Espoir de Saint-Louis. The current holders of the Senegalese FA Cup are Casa-Sports FC who beat Diambars FC de Saly 1-0 earlier this year. The Senegal FA Cup winners automatically qualify for the following season’s CAF Confederation Cup (Africa’s secondary club competition).
The other competition is the Senegalese League Cup which is for teams competing in the top tiers of football in the country. It is a relatively new competition having been founded as recently as 2009 and like the Senegal FA Cup is based upon a traditional knockout style. The inaugural winners were AS Douanes whilst the current holders are Diambars FC de Saly who won the tournament in 2019. Sadly due to COVID, the competition was not held in 2020, and (at the time of writing) the winners of the 2021 competition are yet to be decided.
Q. Which Senegalese teams are historically the most successful?
A list of all previous winners with more than one Championnat Ligue 1 title to their names are shown below:
- 12 Titles: ASC Jaraaf
- 10 Titles: ASC Jeanne d’Arc
- 6 Titles: AS Douanes
- 4 Titles: US Gorée, Sonacos (Now Suneor)
- 3 Titles: ASFA, ASEC Ndiambour, Port Autonome
- 2 Titles: Génération Foot
There are two clubs that stand out as the most successful teams in the history of football in Senegal. One of those clubs is the Dakar-based side ASC Jaraaf. In terms of league titles won, ASC Jaraaf (previously known as Foyer France) currently has twelve titles to their name. The club was founded in 1933 as “Foyer France” and won their first Championnat Ligue 1 title in 1968 and then again in 1970 under their current name of ASC Jaraaf. The mid-1970s could well be considered to be the club’s golden period as following their success in 1970 they then won a further three consecutive championships in 1975, 1976 and 1977 respectively. Two more league titles followed in the 1980s, and one in 1995, which in turn was followed by four more triumphs in 2000, 2004, 2010, and most recently in 2018.
The second-most successful team in Senegal league history is another Dakar-based club, ASC Jeanne d’Arc. As their name suggests, they are named after the French heroine Joan of Arc, and the club has won ten championships in their history. As mentioned previously, they won their first title in Senegal’s first season as an independent nation in 1960, adding further titles in 1969 and 1973. They achieved another three titles in a short spell in the mid-1980s before having their golden period around the turn of the millennium when they picked up four league titles in five years between 1999 and 2003. Alas, their last league title was their 2003 triumph and since then the club has struggled having been relegated from the top flight in 2011, and they are currently competing in the second tier of Senegalese football.
Below is the list of all previous Senegal FA Cup winners with more than one cup victory:
- 15 cups: ASC Diaraf
- 10 cups: ASC Jeanne d’Arc
- 6 cups: AS Douanes
- 4 cups: US Gorée, ASC Linguère
- 3 cups: AS Police, Casa Sport
- 2 cups: Génération Foot, Mbour Petite-Côte FC, US Ouakam
As well as having the most Championnat Ligue 1 titles to their name, ASC Jaraaf also leads the way with regards to Senegalese FA Cup wins with a very impressive 15 triumphs. The club first won the Cup in 1967 with their most recent success coming in the 2013 final when they overcome Casa Sports by 2 goals to 1 after extra time. Jeanne d’Arc is second in the cup victories with 10 final victories, their last coming in 2003 to achieve a league and cup double. The most recent ‘new’ cup winner is Teungueth FC who won their first trophy in 2019 by beating US Gorée by a single goal.
Whilst dominating on the domestic stage, ASC Jaraaf has also fared well in African continental competition too. Their best achievement came in the 1983 CAF Champions League when they made it all the way to the semi-finals stage before losing 3-2 on aggregate against the Ghanaian club Asante Kotoko. However, it is Jeanne d’Arc who is the only Senegalese club to have reached an African club final. They reached the final of the CAF Cup (merged with the CAF Cup Winners’ Cup to create the CAF Confederation Cup) in 1998 where they took on the Tunisian side CS Sfaxien. Alas, they were unable to bring home Senegal’s first continental trophy as they lost 4-0 on aggregate to the Juventus El Arab.
Q. Who are currently the best teams in Senegal
The champions of the Championnat Ligue 1 for 2021 were crowned in July of this year with Thiès-based club Teungueth FC being declared as the eventual winners of the 14 team division. Teungueth is a relatively new club in Senegal having been founded as recently as 2013, with their 2021 title being the first league championship in the club’s history. The club finished six points ahead of runners-up Diambars de Saly and third-placed side, and the defending champions, Génération Foot.
In my opinion, a club that could be considered as the best team in Senegal overall at the moment is Génération Foot who in the last six years have won two Senegalese FA Cups (2015 and 2018) and two Championnat Ligue 1 titles (2016-17 and 2018-19). The Dakar-based club was founded in 2000 and is renowned for its impressive academy which has produced numerous players for the Senegalese national team. It was the club where the Liverpool and Senegalese international star Sadio Mané started his career, likewise with 23-year-old winger Ismaïla Sarr who currently plays for Watford FC and the national team.
Other notable mentions for the title of the best current team in Senegal must also go to historically the best team in the country, ASC Jaraaf who are never too far away from winning titles (last winning the title in the 2017-18 season), and US Gorée who have won Ligue 1 in recent years by claiming the 2015-16 title.
The links for the Fédération Sénégalaise de Football official social media channels can be found below:
Other sites or social media channels which report on Senegalese football can also be found below:
- African Insider Twitter: @African_Insider
- African Ftbl Twitter: @AfricanFtbl
- AfricanFootball.com Twitter: @AfrFootball
- AfricanFootball.com Website: https://africanfootball.com/
- Senegal Football Twitter: @SenegalFootball
- Galsenfoot.com Website: https://www.galsenfoot.com/
- Galsenfoot.com Twitter: @Galsenfootsn
- Football Senegal Twitter: @FootballSenegal
So that completes the look at the Senegalese national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message to the author @Gareth19801, or to the editor @The94thMin on Twitter.