Diadie, unless there is an accident, you will be one of Mali’s 23 players for the 2019 CAN. What do you expect from this African Cup, which will be your first ?
I’m looking forward to it. It’s a dream that’s coming true for me. I’ve played a lot of competitions here in Austria, but it’s not the same as playing the CAN for us Africans. We’ll try not to put pressure on each other and have as much fun as possible together.
What are your personal and collective ambitions ?
We were already happy when we qualified. We thought we were going to prepare ourselves as well as we could. I think the guys started doing it, even though I wasn’t at the last rally because I was hurt. First of all, it would be nice to get through the chicken phase.
Mali will face Mauritania, Tunisia and Angola. What do you think of these teams ?
Mauritania is a team that I don’t know especially well. But she plays well. This is their first CAN and they will want to show that they are not to be taken lightly. Underdogs often play better because they are without pressure. They’re going to want to take advantage. We must therefore be wary of them. Tunisia are the group’s top seed, the favourite team for first place. Tunisia played the World Cup, is used to playing the CAN and has had a good level for many finals, it is a candidate for the title. We’re going to have to manage very well against them and against Angola, it’s going to be a question of that. Angola has been a very difficult team to play with every time they have played the CAN. We’ve already played against them, we’ve done 4-4 (during the opening match of the CAN 2010, editor’s note).
Did the team improve during the playoffs ?
The team has changed a lot, and so has the coach. The most important thing was to integrate the young people well. The new coach did it well. We won almost every game, playing really well. The state of mind is excellent. We have managed to make progress because the collective stands out more than the individualities.
DIADIE SAMASSEKOU : “WE DO NOT DENY OUR PRINCIPLES FOR A VICTORY”
Mali appears to be changing, under the impetus of the youth teams…
The most difficult thing to do was to give a game identity to the A team, in coherence with the youth teams. In the first two or three games of the new coach, we focused on that. Today, we are able to both enjoy ourselves and achieve results. The priority is the quality of the game, then the results come. We don’t think about winning at any price, we have principles that we don’t deny for a victory.
What have you gained from the youth tournaments played with the Eaglets ?
it was the Under-20 World Cup that allowed me to develop and show my qualities. It helped me a lot: we were confronted with the best young people in the world, we understood that we were part of them, that it was our duty to work to stay there. The match for third place against Senegal remains an incredible memory. We were down 1-0, it was raining a lot, each team missed a penalty, and in the end we won 3-1 on two goals from Adama Traoré and one from me, on a combination we hadn’t even worked on ! The whole competition was extraordinary, we went through so many emotions.
What is your relationship with the big brothers ?
The state of mind of this team is great. The elders welcomed us with open arms. It was more up to them to adapt to our style of play. Between their experience and our playing skills, we have synthesized them.
Mali has experienced a lot of instability in recent years. Did it bother the national team ?
It was really a brake on football in the country. We in Europe were not directly affected, but without a championship difficult to develop football in the country. We saw the youth teams decline. We were hurting for our brothers who didn’t have a game to play.
You went through the Jean-Marc Guillou Academy in Bamako. What do you remember from these years of training ?
That success comes first through work, and that we must remain humble: stay yourself when we succeed, do not give up when it is hard. That’s what I try to do on a daily basis. I had a brother who played football, who really loved football, and who didn’t have the chance to become a professional. It is also for him that I am fighting today.