Badou Ndiaye: Senegal's Legal Eagle from Stoke via the Arctic Circle

Badou Ndiaye: Senegal's Legal Eagle from Stoke via the Arctic Circle

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018 - 11:15
Senegal's Badou Ndiaye. (Getty Images)
London - Salif Diallo
As the son of a soldier who also coached the Senegalese Armed Forces team (ASFA), Pape Alioune “Badou” Ndiaye seemed well placed to have his footballing talent honed, especially after joining the renowned Diambars academy at the age of 13. But he endured frustrations early on as team-mates joined other clubs while he had to pursue his studies or risk the wrath of his parents, especially his teacher mother.

“We knew his passion for football was all-encompassing but there was no question of letting him concentrate exclusively on that,” recalls Mor Ndiaye, a former manager of ASFA and also an an ex-coach at Diambars, the talent nursery set up by former players including Patrick Vieira and Bernard Lama in 2003. The player’s father had been very clear on that point, explaining: “I love football but I am first and foremost a parent and I have to take account of the fact that football is subject to all kinds of randomness.”

Ndiaye did not disappoint his parents, gaining a baccalaureate with a major in literature before going on to study law and management at a private university in Mbour, a coastal town about 50 miles south of the capital city, Dakar, and not far from Saly, where the Diambars academy is based. At the same time he made several appearances for Senegal’s under-23s but he was inconsistent, and coaches struggled to work out which position suited him best.

It was when he took part in a summer tournament in Norway with Diambars that he caught the eye of Bodo/Glimt, a top-flight club based inside the Arctic Circle. He joined them in 2012. “When I got up on the first day and opened the front door I was terrified,” he later recalled. “I had never seen snow before, except on TV. But gradually I learned not to care about the weather, It it’s cold, then its cold. I got that attitude from my parents; it’s important to be able to adapt.”

Bodo/Glimt’s fans have some notable eccentricities, including a penchant for waving giant toothbrushes during matches, but Ndiaye adapted so well that he was taken quickly to fans’ hearts. His relentless dynamism, piercing runs from midfield and explosive shooting gave rise to a chant that supporters sung with gusto: “Badou, Badou, what you gonna do?” But none of that cut any ice in Senegal, where Ndiaye seemed to have been forgotten about.

During his three years in Norway his name was hardly mentioned by Senegalese media or coaches, while several of his old team-mates became regulars in the senior national squad, including Sadio Mané, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Kara Mbodj.

It was only when he moved to Turkey’s Osmanlispor in 2015, shortly after the appointment of Aliou Cissé as Senegal manager, that his international prospects were revived. He got his first cap later that year against Namibia, at the age of 25. It was the same day that Kalidou Koulibaly made his senior debut, but while the center-back quickly became a fixture, Ndiaye did not secure a regular spot in the team until the warm-ups for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

In the second match of that tournament, against Zimbabwe, he suffered an injury and had to watch his replacement, Henri Saivet, crown a dazzling performance with a superb goal from a free-kick. But Ndiaye had enough credit in the bank to be restored to the starting lineup when he regained fitness and he has remained a valued squad member since then. His club career has progressed too, as he moved from Osmanlispor to Galatasaray in the summer of 2017 and then, 18 months later, joined Stoke for £14 million.

“He will be one hell of a player,” said the Potters manager Paul Lambert after Ndiaye’s debut against Bournemouth in February. True enough, Ndiaye shone bright in Stoke’s midfield for the rest of the season even if he could not save the club from relegation. There are already rumors linking him with a summer transfer back into the Premier League.

There is also much chatter about whether he should start at the World Cup. He is the player that many Senegal fans would like to see alongside Gueye in midfield instead of Cheikhou Kouyaté, the captain to whom Cissé has so far tended to be very loyal. Ndiaye has learned to bide his time.

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