EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal | OneFootball

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Dan Burke·11 April 2020

EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

Article image:EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

Sadio Mané is no ordinary footballer and the new documentary about his life is no ordinary film.

Many football documentaries tell the rags-to-riches tale of a young person who comes from nothing and goes on to become a global superstar.

‘Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal’ – released earlier this week – tells that story too, but it does so in a very unique and interesting way.

“There’s so much more to his story than football,” Jermain Raffington, a former professional basketball player who is the co-director and Executive Producer of the film, tells Onefootball.

“Obviously he’s an extraordinary athlete and everybody knows about his athletic capabilities and he proves it every time he steps onto the pitch, but what fascinated us is that there’s a whole other side to him, this philanthropic side.

“He’s very young, only 28, but he has the mindset to care for the people around him who not only helped him but surrounded him while he was growing up.

“He even turned down his destiny. One of his uncles in the film talks about how they wanted him to work in the fields but he wanted to be a professional footballer.

“He proved them wrong and that’s a really powerful bracket that we created in the film where you have the uncle in the beginning telling him ‘Dude you have to work in the fields’ and in the end, thanks to the grace of Sadio, that uncle hasn’t had to work in the fields for six years.

“The complete package makes Sadio’s story so unique and interesting because he utilises his football abilities and the financial gains that he makes to actually do good. He’s a very humble person and that’s not being said lightly.”

Article image:EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

Indeed, Mané has already had a school built in his village back in Senegal, with a hospital solely funded by the Liverpool striker due to open in around six months time.

“There’s so many people in the professional football world who come from a tough background but his story is one step more than just growing up in poverty,” adds Raffington.

“His will and determination has made him into an idol for the younger generation not just in Senegal but for every person in the world who is making a tonne of money, to show how it can be used for good.

“You often see quotes from Sadio on social media where he says something like ‘Why do I need 10 Ferraris when there are people who can’t afford to eat?’ and it’s so true.

“In many cases people just say this stuff but he actually lives it. That’s very impressive for someone his age.”

The film features exclusive interviews with the likes of Jürgen Klopp, Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keïta, as well as family members and childhood friends.

But it is as much about Mané as it is about Senegal, with Bambali (the village where he grew up) and the capital city Dakar feeling almost like characters in their own right.

“It was very cool to go there after being in Liverpool and talking to Sadio about how he grew up in Bambali,” says Raffington.

“He talked to us on and off camera very vividly about how he grew up and worked in the fields and then actually being there and talking to all of these people he mentioned, it pieced together the puzzle for us and was super eye-opening.”

One of the most eye-opening scenes features a group of men in a Dakar marketplace having a heated debate about what they perceive as Mané’s failure to replicate his performances at club level on the international stage.

This film is certainly not a hagiography.

Article image:EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

“We’d heard in the interview we did with Jürgen Klopp and also in talks with his agent that there was immense pressure on not just Sadio but almost every African player that plays at international level so we were prepared for that a little bit,” says Raffington.

“But the scene where there’s this argument between this group in the market, the way they’re arguing is typically Senegalese in that it’s very, very passionate. We were just standing there shooting this situation and it got so heated with more and more people getting involved.

“We realised then that it’s about more than just football to these people and it made me wonder how a 28-year-old guy deals with this pressure. We wanted to make an inspiring, positive movie but we also wanted to show how it really is.

“There’s also the situation where he missed the penalty kick [at the Africa Cup of Nations] and [Senegal coach] Aliou Cissé talks about the impact of what it means to miss a penalty for your country.

“That was a side that we really got to know from a player’s and coach’s perspective as well as the fans.”

What really makes the documentary stand out is the extraordinary level of access the filmmakers were given. As well as exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Liverpool’s remarkable 2019 Champions League triumph, the film also captures more tender moments of Mané mixing among his people back home in Bambali.

“That was the idea behind it, to show the world Sadio is operating in,” says Raffington.

“Of course, we wanted to show the side of him that almost everybody knows: Sadio Mané the incredibly skilful footballer, because that is what he is really known for.

Article image:EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

“But we also wanted to make sure the audience sees and gets to know his journey and story behind his stellar career. That way we get to know a side of Sadio that is very much on an interpersonal, humanistic level. Only that way one really gets the full picture of Sadio Mané.

“So ‘Made in Senegal’ offers something for everyone. From die-hard Liverpool supporters, regular sports fans to someone who is not necessarily into football but is interested in an amazing story.”

The documentary could hardly have been made at a better time in Mané’s life considering he won the Champions League and made it to the final of the African Cup of Nations with Senegal in 2019, and there are some particularly electrifying shots from inside Anfield during Liverpool’s remarkable Champions League comeback against Barcelona.

Article image:EXCLUSIVE interview with co-director of Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal

“The Barcelona game where they came back from 3-0 down was just insane,” says Raffington.

“I was watching it in a Liverpool pub in the United States and I was just standing there in tears and hugging the people around me.

“Those guys were happy that they won but we were there at Anfield with cameras and I just knew it was going to be such a great part of the film.

“You never know, they could have lost 7-0 but luckily we were there to capture what happened and that was amazing.”

‘Sadio Mané: Made In Senegal’ is out now. To watch it, visit the official website.

Proceeds from the pay-per-view will be donated to charity.