First game v NED 21/11/22 @16:00 GMT, Al Thumama Stadium
Words by Ili Hyseni
One of the teams I’m most excited about this year are Senegal. The West African nation is rich in both talent on the pitch as well as culture off it.
The first stamp celebrates Senegal’s AFCON title win earlier in the year; a win that allowed the nation to shake off the painful past associated with the tournament. Led by coach Aliou Cissé who had twice taken Senegal to 2nd place at AFCON, once as a player in 2002 and then as coach in 2019, the Senegal weren’t as fancied as the likes of Egypt, Algeria (who won it in 2019) or even the hosts Cameroon. Early on in the tournament there signs that Senegal were struggling under the weight of the nation’s expectation with only one win and two draws to show for in the group stages. However, once it came to the knockout stages the Teranga Lions began to roar; silencing the critics with a series of 3-1 wins in the QF’s and Semis. The rest is history.
The second stamp makes a nod to Senegal’s rich cultural and musical heritage, depicting the team’s players as members of a band. Throughout its history numerous genres have influenced Senegalese music, from the traditional sounds and rhythms made using the the Kora or Sabar drum to the Cuban sounds that permeated the jazz clubs across the country.
In an attempt to move away from the French and American influences associated with the colonial past, the music scene in Dakar began to look elsewhere for inspiration and found it in the anti-imperialist ideals of communist Cuba. Formed to celebrate the nation’s independence in 1960, Star Band is one of the groups synonymous with the Afro-Cuban movement and gave rise to one Senegal’s legendary musicians, Youssou N’Dour. Another huge name associated with the genre is Ibrahima Sylla, a producer who worked with N’Dour and Orchestra Baobab in the 1980s. Some of Sylla’s best work can be found in Diabar, an album that pulls together Cuban, African-American, Soul and Funk producing a window into the lives of Dakar’s youthful and vibrant music scene.
The third stamp imagines the earth as a football and looks towards this year’s tournament, dreaming of the possibility of Senegal becoming the first African team to reach the final. Several teams from the continent have gone deep before, notably Senegal in 2002 when they reached the QF’s as well as Ghana who were painfully robbed of a semi final appearance in 2010 at the hands of Uruguay and, well, Luis Suárez. As this year’s AFCON champions, Senegal will be confident on performing better than they did in 2018 when they failed to qualify from the group. This year, featuring in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands, it would be reasonable to expect to see the team make it through to the knockout stages.