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At 27, Mame Khady Pouye has realized her dream: to be a professional footballer. For five years, this Senegalese has been playing in the Dakar Sacré-Coeur. While women’s football is developing all over the world, and particularly in Africa, thanks to the impetus of Fifa, she testifies to France 24 of the evolution of mentalities in her discipline.
Women are the future of African football and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), like Fifa, have understood this well. While Women’s African Cup of Nations (CAN) will take place in Morocco in July 2022, the year 2021 was marked by the first edition of the first African Women’s Champions League. A competition in which Dakar Sacré-Coeur, champion of Senegal in 2021, competed the preliminary round.
“Women’s football is developing. Here in Senegal, we see a demand that increases from year to year”, notes Matthieu Chupin, president and founder of the Dakar Sacré-Coeur (DSC).
Mame Khady Pouye has realized her childhood dream: she, who has been trying out leather since the age of 10, is now a professional footballer. The 27-year-old number 14 plays as a right-back at DSC, OL’s partner on the African continent. Met by France 24 in Dakar, she recounts the evolution of women’s football in her country.
France 24: in recent years, we have seen an explosion in the number of female footballers in the world. Is it the same in Senegal?
Mame Khady Pouye: I’ve been at the Dakar Sacré-Coeur since the beginnings of the women’s team. It’s been five years already. This increase in the number of female footballers is something good: in recent years, women’s football has developed in Senegal, in particular thanks to the policies of Fifa. It’s a chance for us!
For the moment, in Senegal, women’s football is not yet fully professionalized. Some teams therefore have high-level players and others do not. Match scores can be huge. But I think it will smooth out. A new generation is arriving: U15s, U17s (the categories of young people under 15 and 17, editor’s note) who have had the chance to integrate training centers. With their work, it will improve.
And not all clubs pay a salary: for me, it only started here at the Dakar Sacré-Coeur. It is not enough to live so I work on the side but I now have the chance to be in a very good structure to live my passion.
Football is often seen as a sport for men. Have you ever had to deal with this mentality problem?
Mindsets are changing. We see that here in Senegal women’s football is becoming more and more accepted. Before, it wasn’t even tolerated; before, it was not easy for us to play football. The family didn’t want… Now there’s more understanding. There are even some parents who motivate their daughter to register.
It happened to me personally. I had an aunt who was totally opposed to me playing football. She told me to study first. But the more I advanced in my studies, the less I played football…. Of course, I was late. I had to wait to have a diploma, a license in logistics, to get back into it. Now my family has accepted the situation and is accompanying me.
Do you think it’s easier for boys to become professional footballers than for women?
It’s easier for the boys than for us. Men’s football is more developed and they make more money.
But we help each other. We help each other to progress and move forward. We go out together, we go to the beach, we eat together. We have very, very strong ties off the pitch.