Daka boys carry Senegal's hopes

THERE'S never been an African winner of the Milk Cup but a new team from Senegal is hoping to change that.

Etoile Lusitana hail from Daka and although not well known in world football are out to cause a surprise or two this week.

They certainly have had an excellent build up for the Milk Cup, causing a minor sensation when they beat Italian giants Milan by a single goal in a tournament near Rome recently.

Luis Norton de Matos is the director of the club and after being unable to get the team in the tournament last year is thrilled to be here this week.

But back to that big result the team had in Italy.

Luis revealed: “As usual in Senegal we have a competition [as part of the preparations and one month ago we went to a European competition in Italy.

“It was a tournament near Rome and we were delighted to beat Milan 1-0. I think it was a very, very good experience.”

Senegalese football is best known for Daka-born Patrick Viera, the former French captain who now plies his trade at Manchester City.

Etoile Lusitana’s progress is also being closely watched by Jose Mourinho, the new Real Madrid boss.

Tournament chairman Victor Leonard has revealed that the former Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan supremo has close connections with the African club’s academy based in Dakar.

“Etoile Lusitana has benefitted from coaching sessions by Mourinho over a period of years,” says Victor.

“He is a regular visitor and spends a lot of time with the young players, coaching and helping in their development.

“It is a real measure of the man that he is prepared to commit so much time to helping the Academy give opportunities for players to make a career in the game.”

One of the players who was coached by Mourinho, Senegalese Under-21 international, Pape Abdou Camara, has since joined Belgian club Standard Liege and is expected to sign for Sint-Truidense VV this summer.

The young club is developing an excellent youth academy so bringing the players to the Milk Cup is an important stage in their overall young football careers.

Speaking of the team’s hopes this week, Luis said: “We hope to show that we play very good football and always with fair play because I believe that to be very important.

“Sometimes African teams try to play the European way, in a physical sense and that is not natural to them.

“I have good expectations for the team because I feel they are very prepared especially mentally and we hope for good results and good football.”

Etoile Lusitana crushed Cherry Orchard 5-0 on Monday at Portstewart and will also face Bolton Wanderers at Ballymoney at tea-time on Tuesday.

“This will be the first time that we play against Irish and English teams,” said Luis who has been with the team for three years. He believes that stability and continuity is important when developing young players and teams.

“We started in April 2008 and formed this club as a private project and finance with the help of my friend Mourinho.

“Of course I have known this competition well when I was in Europe and last year I proposed that we come to play in it so I’m very happy and glad that we are finally here.”

Related topics: