Made in Senegal (2020)

Sadio Mané at his best in ‘Made in Senegal’ (2020)

Sadio Mané: Made in Senegal was originally meant to be a short video clip, but his boy-makes-good story was so compelling, the filmmakers turned it into a feature film. We learn how Mané grew up in a small village in Senegal, where farming was the only future available to children. Little Sadio though, was determined to be a footballer. Through his own drive, perseverance, and talent, Mané grew to a position of footballing fame that allowed him to give back to his community.

For Mané to become a footballer, he literally has to run away from home to Dakur, the capital of Senegal. Though his family makes him return home, they compromise and the following year he joins Generation Foot, an academy in Dakur. From there he is recruited to FC Metz in France, but then suffers a sports hernia with an 8-month recovery.

From there, it is on to RB Salzburg, then Southampton, and then Liverpool, where Mané finally establishes himself as a “small” superstar. The documentary is largely filmed in 2018 and 2019, so we see highlights of key games, such as the 4-3 on aggregate come-from-behind win over Barcelona in the 2018 Champions League semi-final. There is also the 2019 Champions League final over Tottenham.

To contrast the highs, the filmmakers show us the pressure on Mané to perform at the national level. He has unfortunately missed a few PKs for his country, and some of the losses led fans to attack his car in Dakur. The Senegalese NT fails to win the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, but Mané expresses his belief that with this generation of talent, they will eventually hoist the African cup. (Which they do in 2021, and they also qualify for WC 2022.)

In Conclusion

Made in Senegal is a window into the culture of an African and Muslim nation that we seldom hear about. From the soccer movie perspective, it’s also a rare success story coming out of an African football academy. Most of the films I’ve reviewed and stories I’ve read have been about young footballers who were deceived and abandoned once they arrived in Europe. Mané talks about being a teenager, getting on a plane for the first time, and not knowing if any of it was real. It made me realize how lucky he was that he was handled by honest people who wanted to see him succeed.

The film also shows the tremendous amount of pressure on a successful footballer from Africa. Mané is a generous and open guy supporting a huge number of friends and family, but it feels like the Sengalese public may continue to demand he share his fortune even when he exits his high-earning phase.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8