Humans have an innate ability to find an interest in things to keep themselves occupied, and to some extent, happy even during the direst of circumstances. Different people find different ways to keep their hopes alive and keep themselves engaged during times of duress.
Football fans are no exception, and during this period where the sport is at a standstill, supporters have found refuge in two nations that are otherwise invisible in the mainstream media: Tajikistan and Belarus.
The two nations, one in Central Asia and the other adjacent to Russia, are among a very small group of countries that have not shut down due to the coronavirus, and are keeping their football leagues going. Ruled by two, shall we say, less than democratic strongmen with unconventional ruling tactics, the countries have understandably been criticised by the wider international community.
Their football clubs and associations though have done a very good job at attracting new fans and viewers. Both countries have sold TV rights to broadcasters in multiple countries, introduced English language social media accounts, and have clubs partaking in various publicity stunts ranging from crowdfunding to selling virtual tickets. Almost every Tajik and Belarusian club now has an English fan account page, something which local fans never imagined in their wildest dreams.
This increased fan-fare has also led to the creation of new cult heroes, and one such hero is 22-year-old Guinean striker Momo Yansane. Born in the town of Fria, Yansane made a name for himself at Hafia FC back in his home country, and signed for Moroccan outfit FUS Rabat in 2017. Part of the Guinean squad at both the 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea, and the U20 African Cup of the Nations the same year, Yansane is recognised as a tall, fast and devastating forward in front of goal.
In 2019, he was signed on loan by Belarus’s Isloch Minsk, a club that has now gone viral due to its support on game days, consisting of a fantastic accordion player and a wolf mascot. After an impressive season wherein he scored 12 goals and registered four assists in 31 matches in all competitions, Isloch made his loan move permanent. This season, Yansane already has three goals in seven games for the club, playing every minute so far, and was handed his first international call-up last November.
We managed to catch up with the man of the moment through social media, and would like to thank him for answering all of our questions at short notice. The interview in full is given below.
Heart of Football: Firstly, how do you feel being at the centre of the world’s attention, did you ever imagine such a situation this early in your career?
Sansane: It’s indeed a pleasure to be watched by people from so many countries, and I’ve dreamed of this all my life. I’m feeling emotions of immense happiness as it is a chance for me to be on top.
HoF: What do you think of Belarus as a place to live and play in, did you have many difficulties in moving there?
Sansane: Belarus isn’t a great place to show off, however all the essential things are here, even if they may not be improving. In any case though, I’m focused on my game, and that is of a very interesting and high level here; that’s what is most important.
HoF: What are your short and long term goals as a footballer?
Sansane: My objective is to go as far as possible as a football player, play in the best leagues of the world, like in England. I also want to be at the top and win as many championships and cups as I can.
HoF: You’ve previously played in Morocco and Guinea, what are the differences between the football in those countries, and the football in Belarus?
Sansane: The difference in Europe is that it is faster, more tactical, more aggressive and also requires a tough mentality. It’s very interesting and unpredictable at times. I’d say that it’s better compared to Africa in terms of the standard.
HoF: What do you think football in Guinea needs to improve and reach a higher level?
Sansane: Today, Guinean football needs help and improvements in a lot of places. We don’t have many high quality stadiums, and our leaders should do a better job of working hard to help Guinean football.
HoF: There are players from various different countries playing at your club. How does it feel being part of such a diverse group and who do you get along with the most?
Sansane: Everybody is my friend at the club, but Weslie John (Trinidad & Tobago, ex-Isloch) really helped me last season; this season he was let go by the club. Still, all of us at the club are like a family.
HoF: What would be your message to young footballers and fans back home in Guinea?
Sansane: My message to the Guinean public and supporters following me from afar would be to be courageous, and continue to support us. Young people should stay focused and should be perseverant. Guineans are very talented and I’m convinced that one day our hard work will pay off.