Ibrahima Baïlo Ba, on the way to Diambars school

Mamadou Ba waits alone on the forecourt of the Mbour stadium. The appointment is set for 9 am, this Friday, October 8, 2021 and, the sun beating already strong, it is with a convinced step and a smile on the edge of his lips that the young man climbs on the back of the car. It’s the end of the rainy season, the one when you sweat at the first movement. ” Let’s go ? We are not far from home » , he says, in a tone perhaps a little embarrassed, before buckling his seat belt. The Ba family lives in the Médine district, in Mbour. The city is known for its huge fishermen’s market and the triumphant return of the canoes of a thousand colors, every day, before sunset. In the village, the odors are sometimes nauseating when one enters near the beach and the warehouses where the fish are crowded. But Medina is away from the auction. “Left then right and we have arrived” , says Mamadou. He is the big brother of Ibrahima, a young midfielder admitted to the Diambars Institute for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, recognized for having trained PSG midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye, or more recently, the Olympic striker. from Marseille Bamba Dieng.

The last lion cub in the family

In the courtyard, Ibrahima Baïlo Ba stands erect. He is dressed in a white Diambars T-shirt and a matching plaid tracksuit. His smile barely conceals his shyness. He is only 10 years old. “I will be 11 years old in December” , he specifies. Even if it is his slender silhouette that first attracts the eye, it is for his ease with the ball that he was selected among the 23 new residents of the Diambars training center. “He’s a box-to-box profile, he impresses me because at his age, he already knows how to make millimeter passes that break the lines” , boasts Mamadou. Finding the intervals, moving forward, that’s what the youngest of a line of seven brothers and one sister likes to do. “What I like best about football is the good passes. And the marking too, get the ball ” , exposes the young footballer, seated on the wooden sofa in the living room. For him, Diambars, “This is the opportunity to succeed in football, it was my first objective” .

Ibrahima, in the front yard of the family house, in Mbour.

It was also the ambition of five of his brothers before him. “We broke our teeth one by one at the detections, remembers Mamadou, who turns 30 this year. I took the tests the year the center opened, in 2003. I could have been in the first class, but it didn’t work. ” Then his little brothers unfortunately imitated him. So when the phone rang and the voice of Dabo, head of the recruiting unit, broke the news for Ibrahima, a feeling of relief swept through the household. “I had just finished praying when I heard my cell phone. I felt a lot of happiness and pride. I said to myself “Al hamdouillah”, then I called Ibrahima. He was happy, because we were stressing these last days. But I told him right away that this was just the start of labor. ”

Ibrahima Bailo Ba and his older brother, Mamadou.

Whoever has boundless admiration for Thiago Alcántara does not skimp on training. He goes to the stadium every day, “Except Sunday, because a player needs a rest” , with two of his brothers, Alpha and Abdourahmane, 16 and 17 years old. ” I get up at 6:30 am. Then I do my ablution and my prayer, Ibrahima list. I take my breakfast, then a taxi to the Nguerigne field. In the afternoon, I learn the Koran, then I go to the beach to do physical exercises, runs and jump rope. I always come back tired. ” Mamadou sees in him “A great passionate, committed and devoted” . Younger, “He slept in football clothes the day before the tournaments to be ready when he woke up” Alpha remembers, causing his little brother to laugh.

The relentless investment of seniors

Three days before the start of the school year, Ibrahima does not intend to deviate from the rule. After slipping out of the living room, he comes back from his bedroom with a bag of crampons on his shoulders: “We join my brothers Alpha and Abdourahmane in food and we are going to train. ” Food is the family business located in Nguerigne, nearly half an hour from Mbour. On the edge of a road bordered by sand, its blue storefront is modern. At the entrance, dozens of packs of cans overlap. Inside everything sells, “Frozen, fresh, French products, even cigarettes” , lists Abdulaziz Ba, an uncle who takes care of the trade.

Ibrahima and his brothers, Alpha and Abdourahmane, in front of the general food managed by the family.

At the store, Ibrahima, Alpha or Abdourahmane never get involved. “I ask them to devote themselves only to football and school. Even if a customer arrives, asks for something, it is me or someone else who informs him ” , explains Mamadou, a big brother “Always there for the little ones. Sometimes he gives everything, to such an extent that he can go without eating ” , confides Abdulaziz, posted against a refrigerator. With a father often absent, the role of the big brother takes on its full meaning. “Our grandfather, in Guinea, is getting older, relate Mamadou. So our father goes back and forth between our country of origin and Senegal. ” Their father, Alphousseyni, arrived in the land of Téranga at a young age, with his parents. Until 2020, the family lived in Casamance, in the south of the country, under the Gambia, before settling in Mbour, “For work and opportunities” . Like that of seeing Ibrahima playing under the colors of the nursery of Diambars, when he was until then a player of the Sports Star of Bignona, near Ziguinchor, since the age of five.

Because if all the brothers have tried their luck, it is the youngest of the family who arouses the most hope. “When I see Ibrahima, I tell myself he’s special. At his age, getting up so early to pray and go to train, jump rope … Today, young people don’t do that! ” admires Abdulaziz, his gaze on his nephew who waits patiently in front of the store, the ball between his legs. With his two brothers, they train a few streets away, on a sandy ground where the false rebound is legion. Behind the badly hooked nets of a goal, three goats graze the little grass there. Children already occupy one of the penalty areas, but they improvise directors by miming, with their tap dancing, cameras turned towards Ibrahima and his brothers. Now is the time to revise the ranges, with testing, passing and one-on-one workshops in front of the goal. “Playing with his big brothers allows him to rub shoulders with more physical players from a young age” , supports Mamadou, his eye on Ibrahima in the duel with Alpha, six years his senior.

First audience, on the Nguerigne field.

At Diambars, talent must rhyme with education

Eleven o’clock this Monday, October 11. Things are busy at the Diambars institute, created by Saer Seck, Jimmy Adjovi-Boco, Bernard Lama and Patrick Vieira in 2003. In the main alley leading to the six fields, the children of the 2021-2022 class are excited to start a new chapter in their young existence. The suitcase in hand or placed under the buttocks, all have an easy smile, necessarily in a hurry to discover the equipment provided by the structure and delighted to have finally arrived at the end of the long detection tunnel. “The promotion is the synthesis of all the young people that we saw on the whole of the national territory, slips President Saer Seck. In the preliminary phases, it is we who travel to the different regions of Senegal, to see as many young people as possible. We create regional selections, then there is a phase called the National Festival with 350 boys. From there, we keep about fifty, then about thirty, to select, by elimination, about twenty in the end. ”

Ibrahima Bailo Ba, listening to President Saer Seck.

This year, twenty outfielders and three goalies have been admitted. “It’s exceptional, it’s the best promotion we’ve ever had” , enthuses Dabo, the head of the recruitment unit. “Initially, Ibrahima was not among those who stood out from the crowd, thinks back to the one who spotted Bamba Dieng. But little by little he showed himself. He caught up well at the end, in the matches, he was able to show his qualities. ” According to Dabo, the young medium has “Talent, he smacks of football. He is technically good, he reads the game well. We have a lot of hope with Ibrahima because he has discipline, seriousness at school and football. ” While the children, born between 2009 and 2010, dress in Diambars ‘red outfits, the families present for the start of the school year sit in a conference room divided in two: on the left, the parents’ chairs; on the right, those of the players. Ibrahima’s entourage is grouped together at the back of the room. Her mother is there, in a long dress, her face under a blue shawl with white stripes. His eyes shine when his child arrives, surrounded by his new comrades. The brothers Alpha, Abdourahmane and Mamadou also seem to be crossed by the emotion.

Ibrahima Bailo Ba surrounded by his mother, and Dabo, the recruiting manager of Diambars.

In front of them, the educators around the president, Saer Seck. His speech, in Wolof, is clear and focused on education. “It’s only the learning that matters. No theft, tobacco, alcohol, fights, not even a cell phone or pocket money. Everything children need, Diambars provides them, he claims. Our principle and our philosophy is that at the front door of Diambars, all young people are in an equal situation. ” Here, school lessons are given within the institute, every day of the week from 8 am. “Football is an important industry, but it has never developed a country” , continues the former vice-president of the Senegalese football federation (FSF). For Ibrahima, less reserved in the presence of his friends, “There is no need to worry, his seriousness on the pitch, he also has it outside” , reassures Dabo. What must now be proven is that the detection cell has got it right. By Clément Teraha, in Mbour, Nguerigne and Saly
Photos: Clément Teraha.

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