Real Madrid vs Liverpool: Sadio Mane makes brilliant Champions League final gesture
The flying winger admitted the small rural town of Bambali, in the south of the country, will see little productive effort when his Liverpool tackle the might of Real Madrid in the Champions League final tomorrow night.
“Nobody in the village will work this day,” he said.
But his presence in the Liverpool side facing Real Madrid will ensure that a small piece of rural Africa will reverberate like The Kop when the action gets underway in Kiev.
“My family, my mum and my uncle, still live in the village and they are all going to be watching. There are 2,000 in the village,” said Mane. “I bought 300 Liverpool jerseys to send to the people in the village, so the fans can wear [them] to watch the final.”
Senegal international Mane is already a hero back home, not only for his exploits with the national side but having used his fame and fortune for good causes back home.
In April this year he donated £200,000 to help build a secondary school in Bambali.
But his profile would go through the roof if he helps bank a sixth European Cup/Champions League crown for Liverpool and take back a winners’ medal to show friends and family when he goes home after the World Cup in Russia.
Mane said: “I am not thinking about the pressure, just that it is incredible. I am happy and excited. As a squad we are in the best shape. There is no tiredness. We are in good shape.
“This kind of game does not happen all the time. It is one of the most important of a career and it will not be easy. Real Madrid have experience and are one of the best teams in the world.
“But we have quality and can beat any team in the world.”
Mane’s first Champions League memory was huddled around a television in the village with his friends aged 13 watching Liverpool’s astonishing resurrection in Istanbul in 2005.
And he admitted that some of his fellow fans (he admits he was a Barcelona fan back then) were so disappointed with the first half that they did not stick around for the comeback.
“I remember AC Milan against Liverpool in 2005. Three-nil down, then 3-3 and penalties. This was a big memory for me. I was watching in my village,” he said. “I remember being with a big friend of mine, Youssouph Diatta, and at 3-0 down he stopped watching and ran like crazy to get away.
“When he came back at the end and Liverpool had won he could not believe it. Even to this day he still cannot believe it.
“I spoke to him this week. He is still in Senegal and is a big Liverpool fan. He asked me that this time do not be 3-0 down!”
Mane has scored nine goals during this Champions League campaign, along with Mo Salah (10) and Roberto Firmino (nine) forming the most prolific front line operating in Europe.
And the Liverpool man believes it is their attacking intent and their style of play will see most neutrals cheering for them tomorrow night.
“I cannot say most of the world because Real Madrid fans will say otherwise,” said Mane. “But maybe everyone who is not a Real Madrid, Everton, Man United or Man City fan!
“I think everyone else would like to see Liverpool win the trophy. It would be good for football.”
One thing is certain. There will be a small but noisy and well-dressed corner in Senegal guaranteed to be rooting for them.