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FIFA World Cup: Russia 2018

From American Third Division Football to the World Cup –Mbengue’s Miraculous Jump to the Big Times

It’s said that football goes in tandem with luck. If that’s the case, then luck certainly visited Adama Mbengue this weekend.

One can only imagine the 24-year-old overwhelmed and jumping for joy, not in delight over the injury of a countryman but at news of being summoned to play for his nation.

The Rufisque-born was one of those downsized and asked to make way for a list of 23-man players as Senegal announced it World Cup-bound team.

The left-back wasn’t completely effaced from the equation but was asked to contend with situation of being a standby –training at home without knowing whether he will at all be called up.

But just as his hopes of ever playing in this year’s World Cup began fading, then the unpredictable happened. It followed an unkind development dealt to gaffer Aliou Cisse’s first-choice left-back Saliou Ciss – a classic case of one’s loss being another’s gain.

Coach Aliou, himself a former Senegal captain, has been sweating over the injury of Angers’ left-back-cum midfielder.

The 29-year-old former Diambars FC man sustained the abrasion during the Taranga Lions’ World Cup preparatory game with Luxembourg two weeks ago, in which two other key men picked up wounds, resulting to one of the stars being hospitalised.

Adam now travels to Russia as he was already in Paris to get a connecting flight for Moscow at time of writing this piece.


Photo: Mbgue fends off Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa

Head coach Cisse has little time to run Mbengue through his programmes with game day just hours away. Poland stands as the first opposition where Bayern Munich’s goal-assassin Robert Lewandowski sits in waiting ready to wreak havoc.

This means Adam would be accorded not much time to recuperate and pundits back home are already predicting pressure to pile in if he’s to be handed immediate call to duty in the starting line-up on Tuesday.

Aliou could be greeted by that feeling of going into a final without his first-choice pick left-back. Such fears if any, may not after all be genuine, giving Senegal is a star-studded outfit and spoilt for choice from the players who made the final 23 to the ones axed.

But whatever the doubt regarding effectiveness, Mbengue will be the least worried and would for now be preoccupied with relishing having his World Cup dream come true.

Six years ago, he treaded a different path, crafting a living, of course out of football, but on a division streets apart from the current realities greeting him. He left his hometown a budding teenager for the United States, starting out with Orlando City’s U-23s.


Photo credit: Twitter. Good old times , Mbengue playing for Orland City

Prior to bursting onto the scenes, no one youth player has ever made the grades to the first team of the Florida-based outfit then plying its trade in the United Soccer League Pro, the equivalent of third division football. Adam ended that jinx, securing a spot in Orlando City Sporting Club’s men team and signing a professional contract.

The Senegalese made his debut in the win over Harrisburg City Islanders.

A year later, he set up the goal that downed Lamar Hunt US Open Cup champions Sporting Kansas City before returning to Senegal in 2014 after two years in the US.

The 24-year-old resurrected his career with local first division side Diambars last year before a chance to move to French Ligue one side Caen came months later.


Photo credit: Facebook. Adam training with AS Diambars

In between those moments, he’d featured for the Junior Taranga Lions five times in Caf qualifiers.

Looking back on his journey on this Tuesday 19th June, the left-back will be grinning at his miraculous rise from obscurity.

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