From Senegal to Gorica, Meet Footballer Cherif Ndiaye

Daniela Rogulj

Senegalese footballer Cherif Ndiaye started his career in Senegal, namely at club Grand Yoff which plays in the third league. He left Senegal to chase his football dream in Europe to play one game for Belgian club Waasland-Beveren. After a short break, he made his way to Croatia, to first-league club HNK Gorica, reports Večernji List on March 13, 2019. 

“In Belgium it was difficult, and in my first season there were three strikers – I was the fourth. I played in the second team, the first one was hard to break into. It was the last day of the transfer period I was nowhere. I went to Paris with my mom. We slept in the same room, in the same bed. It was a tough time. When you live this way, you have to be pretty strong in your head. Now, when I’m playing, my mother is in my head,” says Cherif before recalling his football beginnings.

“I started playing in Senegal at Grand Yoff in the third league. I played there for several months and then came to Europe.”

Although he has been in Europe for many years, home is still home. Ndiaye has three brothers and a sister, and his wife is in Senegal. They have been married for three months.

“Whenever I have vacations, holidays, I go to Senegal. I get together with my family and friends. They all come over and stay until late in the night. After the match against Dinamo I am going to Paris, my wife will meet me there and we will return together. Here, when I’m free, I do not watch TV, I do nothing but talk to my wife,” he added.

The ‘new Atiemwen’ has scored four goals in Gorica’s last two games – though he’s impressed ever since he joined the club’s first-team squad in January this year.

“The first time my agent told me I was going to Gorica I said, “Gorica, why Gorica? But, if there is nothing better, I’m going.” When I came and saw the country, the city, I realized it was beautiful. And the league is pretty strong,” says Ndiaye.

“It was difficult, but I came to the first training session and immediately saw that I have a chance. I can prove myself here. I do not need to go out, I just need my apartment and my wife, and I’m all here,” says the 23-year-old. 

Though he’s still adapting to the language and Croatian cuisine…

“The language is very difficult. Every time I listen to people speak, it sounds difficult. But I know a little. The people are so great. When I train, sometimes my neighbors call me or come to my apartment to bring pancakes, drinks… Sometimes I go with my teammates to Zagreb for the weekend,” adds Ndiaye, who still can’t quite get into Croatian food.

“I don’t like it, I love African food.”

Although he may not like Croatian food, he does like Croatian footballers. His favorite is Mario Mandžukić. 

“He’s a good player, strong. If you go at him as a defender, he wants to kill you. It’s great. When I was younger, my favorite was Benzema. I play like him. Every time he gets the ball, he shows skill and enjoys it. And there is, of course, Drogba. He is my favorite African player.”

Just like his favorite attackers, Ndiaye is also known for his unique choreography when celebrating a goal.

“My name is Cherif (like ‘sheriff’). I saw movies with sheriffs, how they handled guns and thought I could do it too. Everyone likes it,” says the attacker, who enjoys the club, his teammates, and the league.

“I did not know much about Croatian football when I came here. Wherever you go it is different. The league here is quite strong. You run a lot, defend a lot, attack a lot. It’s not easy. I know that I can achieve a lot of goals if I have confidence. I have a team behind me, if I can assist, I will assist, and if I can score, I will score. That’s my philosophy.”

The next game for Gorica is against Dinamo on Sunday at 3 pm.

“To me it doesn’t matter who we play, Dinamo or Rudeš. I have no pressure. I watched them play. They are good and I respect them. Olmo is great; their attack is super. Petković, he is strong.”

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