Despite his team’s defeat versus the Netherlands, the Senegal captain was happy to see Africans united in their support for the continental champions at Qatar 2022.
On the pitch, the Senegal players gave their all and never stopped running until the final whistle sounded. In the stands, their fans took a similar approach, playing the drums, dancing and singing for the entire 90 minutes.
And while the men on the pitch were unable to turn their slightly higher number of chances into a positive result in Monday’s 2-0 loss – featuring two late goals – at the hands of the Netherlands at Al Thumama Stadium, their entertaining supporters certainly made an impression.
After taking over the eye-catching arena’s esplanade three hours before the kick-off to their country’s first match at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, the fans of the Lions of Teranga, dressed in green, yellow and red, mixed amiably with their Oranje counterparts – also striking in their bright colours – as well as with supporters from all over the world: Argentinians, Germans, and Brazilians, and other Africans, of course.
Just outside the stadium, FIFA+ came across a group of visitors waving Senegalese, Moroccan and Tunisian flags together. “We met here,” one of them responded when asked how they knew each other.
This is not the first time that supporters of different African countries have shown solidarity with each other in Qatar. Strolling through the alleyways of Souk Waqif in Doha, it is not uncommon to see Moroccan, Ghanaian, Cameroonian, Tunisian and even Algerian flags displayed alongside each other.
Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly was able to appreciate this atmosphere of fraternity, in spite of the defeat by the Dutch. “It’s brilliant to have such strong backing,” the Chelsea defender told FIFA+. “We knew that we would have a lot of African fans behind us on account of us being Cup of Nations winners, and by having proved that we’re a good team.”
He added: “In fact, I’m calling on all Africans to come together, because that’s how we’re going to move forward. We support all the African teams and I think they support us too. That’s really nice. We heard the fans throughout the match – we’re going to need them for the upcoming games.”
Ismail Jakobs, born to a Senegalese father and a German mother, shared his captain’s views. “It was fantastic,” said the 23-year-old Monaco star, who is competing in his first-ever World Cup. “We heard them during the warm-up, and it was my first time in front of them, so it was great. It’s also nice to see all of Africa standing shoulder to shoulder like that.”
These scenes of unity and togetherness are likely to be repeated as other African teams enter the competition: Tunisia, on Tuesday 22 November (against Denmark), Morocco, on Wednesday 23 (against Croatia), Cameroon, on Thursday 24 (against Switzerland) and Ghana, also on Thursday (against Portugal).
The African fans in the stands have set the tone in Qatar, and it will be up to the players to follow suit.