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Aliou Cissé on Senegal tragedy ahead of England clash

The Teranga Lions, managed by Aliou Cissé, head into the last 16 clash without record goalscorer Sadio Mané.

Senegal's players take part in a training session at Al Duhail SC in Doha on November 30, 2022 during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Senegal are aiming to match the side from the 2002 World Cup 20 years and reach the last eight when they take on England on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s England are fifth in the FIFA world rankings, while Senegal are 18th.

The Teranga Lions, managed by Aliou Cissé, head into the last 16 clash without record goalscorer Sadio Mané, who was ruled out of the tournament through injury.

Five different players have chipped in with goals for Senegal in the absence of Mané as they finished second in Group A.

Only three months after the 2002 World Cup, where they beat current champions France, and became only the second African team to reach the last eight, Cissé experienced tragedy.

Tragedy strikes after World Cup

In late September, 11 of Cissé’s family members, including his sister, died in a ferry disaster, often labelled ‘Africa’s Titanic’, off the coast of The Gambia, which is surrounded by Senegal.

“This is the first time since the sinking that I have spoken about it in the press,” Cissé told BBC Sport Africa. “It was a very difficult time.”

“We must simply remember our dead and all those families decimated from the fathers down to the grandchildren.

“In fact, my main motivation in agreeing to this interview is to say ‘we are thinking of you’.”

The Joola operated between a region known as the Casamance in southern Senegal and the capital Dakar, so bypassing The Gambia, which sits in the middle of horseshoe-shaped Senegal.

“I loved the Joola - I knew it inside out. I can’t even count how many times I took the ferry. Every time I came back home, I travelled to the Casamance on the Joola,” Cissé added.

“I could have easily been on the boat too, so I was lucky.”

Nearly 2,000 others died in the tragedy, in what became the second-worst peacetime nautical disaster in history.

The boat had an official capacity of 536 passengers but despite this, there were over 1,800 fatalities, due to poor management, when the Joola sank. Of the fatalities, 444 were children.

Captain of the 2002 squad, Cissé took charge of Senegal in 2015 and lost the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2019 before returning to lift the title in Cameroon earlier this year.