Africa’s best soccer player is set to miss the World Cup in Qatar

Former Liverpool star Sadio Mané got injured 12 days to the first World Cup match in Qatar.
Sadio Mané's smiles may not be seen on the pitch at this World Cup
Sadio Mané's smiles may not be seen on the pitch at this World Cup
Photo: Zohra Bensemra (Reuters)
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Sadio Mané, the African soccer player of the year and main star of the Senegalese national team, looks set to miss the FIFA world cup in Qatar after sustaining an injury twenty minutes into a match for his Germany-based club Bayern Munich on Tuesday (Nov. 8).

It would be a huge blow for the 30-year-old who was to appear in his second World Cup. He scored the decisive penalty in a play-off against Egypt that helped Senegal qualify back in March, and has helped establish Senegal as Africa’s best team going into the games.

French publication L’Equipe first declared Mané out of the games. But it appears Senegalese officials have yet to officially rule him out as they have not received briefing from Bayern, according to sports journalist Usher Komugisha. Senegal’s president Macky Sall sent “speedy recovery” wishes to the player.

How important is Mané to Senegal’s hopes?

Mane has been in fine form since this European soccer season started in August, scoring 11 goals in 23 games so far for his new club.

He joined Bayern this summer after six successful years at Liverpool where he won every trophy possible and attained legendary status, his last game for them being a third UEFA Champions League final in May. Last month, he came second in the Ballon d’Or awards, soccer’s highest individual prize, becoming the first African to finish that high on the ranking since former professional footballer and current president of Liberia,  George Weah, won it in 1995.

Sadio Mané on stage dressed in a black bow tie suit with his African Footballer of the Year award
Mané won the CAF African footballer of the year awards in 2019 and 2022
Photo: Abdelhak Balhaki (Reuters)

All of this put Mané in good stead for a starring role in Qatar. Senegal’s talented team won the African Cup of Nations for the first time in February and hopes to be the first African country to play in a world cup semi final. But the Teranga Lions will now have to do it without one of their prized assets.

Senegal is one of five African countries that will be in Qatar for this year’s tournament, sharing Africa’s hopes for glory with Ghana, Cameroon, Morocco, and Tunisia. Neither has named its 26-man squad for the games but an injury-free Mané was expected to be one of the first names on the starting eleven for Senegal’s first match against the Netherlands on Nov. 21 in Doha. Hosts Qatar are also in Senegal’s group.