Omar Daf, the rare Sub-Saharan coach of a professional club in France, from Dakar to Dijon

Omar Daf, the rare Sub-Saharan coach of a professional club in France, from Dakar to Dijon

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Senegalese coach Omar Daf in January 2019.

When we talk to him about the future, Omar Daf, 45, who some imagine will one day sit on the bench of the Senegalese election, says only the present interests him. A gift written in Dijon, where he was appointed in June after spending four years at his favorite club, Sochaux. “My goal is to bring Dijon, an ambitious club with the means to achieve that, to Ligue 1, which we almost got with Sochaux last season.”says.

After taking the first place in the standings, his team, which is on a negative line (one draw, four losses), heads to co-leader Amiens on Saturday, October 8th for an extremely important meeting. “A new adventure begins for me, who has not studied anywhere but Sochaux”, it indicates.

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The Dakar native is one of the few sub-Saharans in Europe to coach a professional team. ” It is not unreasonable for European clubs to prefer European coaches who know European football better in a highly competitive market.believes, but hopes that this situation will not freeze.

Senegal to Belgium

His passion for football has family roots. His now-deceased father, Mamadou, played in Division 1 for US Gorée in addition to his position as commercial inspector at Yoplait, while his uncle Habib, who passed by the club, wore the national selection jersey.

Sometimes tempered by an understanding mother, but never forgetting to remind him of the importance of work, this family football prism led him to travel from Senegal at the age of 17 to Belgium, where he had such a bitter experience. . Spotted by a manager during a match with his high school team, he considers joining the prestigious Standard Liège, one of the best clubs in the kingdom. Finally, in Belgium D2, in Flanders, where French is not used much, it will be Westerlo.

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I didn’t understand much, I didn’t play much, I went to training on my bike and it wasn’t close to my house. They did not help me and this made me understand, on the contrary, I needed to open up to others. Sometimes I wanted to go back to Dakar but I couldn’t resist. “Away from the beaches of the capital, away from family and friends,” Nostalgic for the scents of Dakar », Omar Daf finds one of his brothers in Thonon-les-Bains in French Division 4, where he is spotted by Sochaux.

I knew he was struggling in Belgium, doing chores during the day at Thonon and training in the evenings. He came to Sochaux a few months before me, and he was one of the men of great intelligence who wanted him. Says Jean-Claude Plessis, the iconic president of FC Sochaux (1999-2008). Former manager remembers a player” When some of the calm, cool young people who went to talk went to the training center, they slipped. Omar thinks collectively first and it is natural for him to be a coach.”

“A controlling element”

Omar Daf was one of the pillars of the Senegalese selection, staying loyal to FC Sochaux, where he remained from 1997 to 2009, before returning to finish his playing career there in 2012-2013 after spending three seasons at Brest and embarking on a career change there. . Along with the Lions of Teranga, he was particularly involved in the frenetic 2002 of 2002, which culminated in an African Cup of Nations loss to Cameroon and the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

International Ferdinand Coly, shoulder to shoulder with him in a cave inhabited by egos and strong personalities, a moderator. He got on well with everyone, knew how to talk when necessary, and his common sense aroused respect. When I was still a player, we guessed there was an attraction for the coaching job because he was curious and already communicated that concern.”

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Throughout his career as a player, at the club as well as in selection, Omar Daf occasionally met coaches who inspired him and made it a point to record his notes in a notebook that never left him. Including the French coach Bruno Metsu (died 2013), who led Senegal to the top in 2002. He impressed me in the sense that he knew how to be very close to the players, being overly demanding at times while also allowing a kind of self-management to prevail in the group. »

Omar Daf also uses his Muslim faith to improve his relationship with his actors: ” I am very religious and spirituality helps me reflect on the behaviors I have with them. Openness to others, which he tries to apply in other areas of his life. As soon as possible, Omar Daf gets out of his daily life to look for a way to help a village in Senegal or elsewhere on the African continent. “You send 1,500 euros and it will finance a project or two in a poorly equipped municipality and improve people’s lives”He defines.

Here is Omar Daf finally ready to discuss his future, not necessarily where we imagined it: “There will come a time in my life when I will devote myself entirely to humanitarian work. » And to clarify: Football takes up a lot of space in our lives.says, but it is important to have other centers of interest. »

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