In a London restaurant, Senegalese hold heads high despite England disappointment | WorldCup
It was a freezing night in east London, but inside Little Baobab, an inconspicuous Senegalese restaurant hidden away in a building in Clapton, there was a cautious buzz of optimism. Usually the venue hosts Senegalese musicians, often playing mbalax, a type of Senegalese and Gambian dance music. But tonight, it was all about the football, with the crowd of 40 or so hopefully their team could reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in just the second time.
Khadim Mbamba, the restaurant’s chef, refused to sit, but chose instead to lean nervously against a chair at the very back of the room. “Some people have told me Senegal only has a 15% chance of winning,” he said. “I would say 35%. I don’t think there’s going to be many goals, though. 1-0 or 2-1, maybe.”
For Mbamba, it’s significant that the team is led by Aliou Cissé, a veteran of the famous 2002 campaign when Senegal beat then world champion France.
“We were coached by French managers so long. Now, most of the African teams are coached by Africans. Every country has its own mentality. A Senegalese manager knows how to handle the team and deal with the players.”
The Senegalese team are no strangers to grief. In the year of the 2002 World Cup campaign, the MV Le Joola, a ferry that connects Senegalese coastal cities, sank and 1,863 people lost their lives. Eleven of them were relatives of Cissé, and his sister was one of the dead.