Anyone familiar with Sadio Mané knows how important community is to him. The Liverpool and Senegal superstar is driven not by fame and headlines, but giving back to the people who supported him through thick and thin.
You might have heard stories of how Mané spends the majority of his free summers back home, in the small town of Bambali, Senegal, where he grew up. He certainly has the money and status to jet around the world, but the Liverpool star’s roots are much more important to him than a vacation. His standing as one of the best players in the world has afforded him the means to build a school and hospital for his people.
Those close to the Premier League and Champions League winner know that he gets just as much from his community in Senegal as he gives back. Mané strongly believes the relationship is symbiotic and would probably argue that he gets more out of it than any of Bambali’s residents.
“Today, football players are role models on and off the pitch,” he says. “After every single season, I’m back home, where it all began. I’ve always said it’s really important to give back and I try my best to give back what my people have given me.”
Mané’s community gave him the support he needed to succeed in professional football. That journey, how his family and friends helped him get to where he is today, and how he has only begun to repay their faith in him, is documented in a beautifully candid documentary called Made in Senegal. In it, Mané can be seen speaking to his people from the second floor of a hospital he was building for Bambali. Impassioned, Mané implores his compatriots to make use of the town’s new infrastructure, which includes a school and soon-to-be-developed petrol station.
“I am from there and I know what they need and what would be of benefit to them, as I went through the same things many of them are going through before I became a professional footballer,” he explains, when asked how he chooses how to help his people back home.
Mané’s school, the first of his large-scale projects to be completed, was built to offer the Bambali community a way to follow their dreams. “Why not start by building a school to give opportunities to those young kids who dream to become someone else in the future?” Mané asks. “The hospital is also an opportunity for people who have maybe never been to the hospital to get better treatment than before.”
The petrol station, his newest undertaking, might be a surprising one for outsiders who aren’t as in tune with the needs of the community. But Mané is sure it will be a huge help.
“You have to run 10 to 20 kilometers to get petrol. There are 10,000 people in the village and they need the gas to cook, as well,” Mané continues. “I’m doing my best to make sure my projects solve real problems and make a real difference.”
But Mané is far from a philanthropist who picks and chooses projects and finances them from afar. He still considers himself an active member of the community and understands there are intangible benefits he can provide his family and friends back home.
“There are many things that can make a difference; for example, just being there with them,” Mané smiles. “I always try to be there, give my advice, and just spend some quality time with them. I see in their faces how happy it makes them and how they appreciate it.”
As a footballer who wants to make a difference, having the right partner — one who not just affords the player the freedom to undertake his own projects, but also actively supports those projects — is incredibly important.
New Balance, as co-producer of the aforementioned 2020 documentary, has made sure Mané gets what he needs — both on and off the pitch — to achieve his goals. The player’s happiness at being New Balance’s premier athlete in Europe is evident when he reveals that he’s signed a new long-term deal with the New England sportswear company.
The partnership has also seen Mané receive his own signature version of the Furon boot, which he is set to wear for the first time this weekend. “I’m very happy that New Balance allowed me to put my signature on the boots,” beams Mané, before joking: “It wasn’t easy in the beginning, because I’m so complicated when it comes to boots. But New Balance was great and made sure they fit perfectly.”
Even the most part-time, hobby footballer will know what Mané means: When a boot doesn’t fit just right, your superstitions can get the best of you and you’ll be convinced you’ll never score a goal again.
Mané’s new signature colorway, aside from being blindingly striking, features a bespoke design and personalization. “The little details always make a difference, so I’m very excited to wear these boots in my next game,” he says, before revealing his favorite detail. “The head of the lion [on the sole] because, well, I am the lion.”
It’s an apt comparison, given that Mané, even when he doesn’t score, is more often than not both Liverpool and Senegal’s standout performer on the pitch. The way Mané leads his teams, as well as his community back home, is akin to how a lion leads his pride.
He’s already got the Premier League and Champions League titles to his name. Come January 2022, Mané hopes to lead Senegal to glory in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Until then, he’ll continue making a difference — on and off the pitch.