IN MY OWN WORDS: Moussa Wagué
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So, that’s that. My first season at Barça is over. Now I’m off to represent my country and show the progress I’ve made. A lot has happened since the World Cup in Russia last year. We have a trophy to win: The African Cup of Nations. Last year we came home from Russia with a bitter taste in our mouths.
We were the first country eliminated on Fair Play points. We missed out because of yellow cards! It was really frustrating. Our World Cup performances showed that we could compete with any team. It would be incredible to come back from Egypt with the first trophy in Senegal’s history. We are the favourites, but we have to show why on the pitch.
The national team squad is family. We grew up together, from youth level to now. We laugh a lot when we are together. I have my routines, especially before games. We eat some typical food (such as ‘Thieboudienne’, our national dish of rice and fish), dance around to alleviate some of the pressure, and pray together. Some of us are Muslim, others are Christian, but that doesn’t matter.
Our prayers are asking for the same thing, and we feel that we are united in our quest for a common goal. I also pray before Barça games, alone, because my faith helps me to feel the soul of a warrior. Barcelona is different to the city that I come from, Bignona, in the west of Africa and with only 27,000 inhabitants. When I was 6 years old, we played barefoot with whatever ball came to our feet. Our happiness was about kicking around a round piece of leather, or plastic.
We weren’t thinking about becoming professionals. We just wanted to play with the ball, without caring about time or material things. Starting out playing without boots helped me to perfect my technique and develop strong feet.
I was chosen to play 400km from home, in the Aspire Academy in Saly, with people from all around Africa and from Costa Rica. I remember that on the day of the trials I didn’t want to go, because I was scared of missing school and getting told off by my father. But it all went well.
There is everything that they need to progress in the best conditions there. It was almost like an ‘African La Masia’. We travelled around Europe a lot to play international tournaments like the MIC. It felt as if everything was beginning to get underway. We barely had time to catch our breath at the Aspire Academy. We had two training sessions per day. We were so motivated that we didn’t even feel the heat of the sun.
This year I had the fortune to end the season with the first team and win the league. I feel proud to play at the best club in the world.“ Moussa Wagué
I went to Belgium when I was 18, to play for KAS Eupen. Going so far away didn’t scare me, as I already knew the older players from the academy who were playing at the club. Almost everybody there spoke French. My coach on the first team was former French international Claude Makélélé, who won the Champions League in 2002 and reached the World Cup final in 2006. I learned to be a warrior like he was when he played for Real Madrid and Chelsea. At KAS Eupen we had to battle to avoid relegation to the Second Division, and every point was hugely valuable.
Now, at Barça, its the opposite. A draw is considered to be a defeat, and winning is the norm. When the game begins, you always have the obligation to take the three points. This is a club separate from the rest, with their own philosophy. Before we play a match, the coach always tells me “You have to attack by defending.” At other clubs, the coaches are used to saying “Attack when you can, and get back quickly.”
There’s a winning culture here, and one of playing attacking football. I had the good fortune this year to end the season as part of the first team, winning the LaLiga title. I feel proud to be playing for the best club in the world, because Eto’o, Keita and Yaya Touré made me dream of this when I was a kid. I hope to be part of this group on a regular basis next season. I’ve got the African Cup of Nations and the preseason tour coming up for people to see me in action, if everything goes well.
At the World Cup, it was my historic goal for Senegal (making me the youngest African goalscorer at a World Cup), amongst other things, that allowed me to sign for Barça two months later.The national team could be a good showcase for my potential. Especially with Aliou Cissé as coach. He has taught me a lot since 2012. He’s been an example for me, ever since he was coach of the Under-23s. We have a relationship built on trust.
I never have doubts. He believes in me. God is on my side, and my family as well. I feel invincible and I will go as far as I set my sights. From day one, my father has given me that strength. He always urges me to put in the necessary effort in training and in games… even in school. I owe him everything.
Sometimes people ask me if my idol as a kid was Drogba, Eto'o, Diouf... But honestly, my only hero was my father.He calls me constantly. The rest of my family do too. Every time that the call me, it gives me an energy boost. They believe in me more than even I do. My friends installed a television at home, and when we’re playing an important game for the national team, they can follow my progress. Me playing for Barça is a dream come true for all of them. I’m the one on the pitch, but we are all there playing.
I remember my arrival in Barcelona. I didn’t know anyone. Well, I knew their faces from the television. Fortunately, everybody welcomed me like a new member of the Blaugrana family. Firstly at Barça B, and then with the first team. In the beginning, the jokes that Piqué and Suárez made allowed me to relieve some of the pressure.
It made me realise that they were just normal guys… well, almost normal! I’ve never got that feeling with Messi. I haven’t dared to spend much time around him for the moment. What would he think if he knew that I wore his shirt when I was little? Maybe one day he’ll give me one of his real shirts, perhaps?
When I come back in August I want to train and play with this group. I will fight to achieve my goal.“ Moussa Wagué
Meanwhile, I’m making a lot of progress every day with him, Suárez and Dembélé in training. Sometimes we look at our captain and our jaws drop at the things he does. Sometimes I watch Messi practicing free kicks. You can tell that he knows what he’s doing. I can’t imagine getting into a free kick competition with him.
When I come back in August, I want to train and play all the time with this group. I’ll fight until I achieve that. The support of my family and my country allows me to never have any doubts. My first year at Barça has been far from calm. I had to wait three months to obtain my work permit, then I injured my abductor. I was also sent off for pushing a fan who made fun of me and made racist insults towards me when we were losing with Barça B. I apologised, but I think that these kinds of people don’t belong in the stands.
When I signed for Barça I knew that I was going to play for the first team if I put together a run of good games with the B team. I’m on the right track. When I retire, I want to be remembered as a great player. Just that. A great player.
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