Salif Diao is five years removed from his professional football career, but he is still involved with the sport at a local level, helping the Senegalese youth to develop both as footballers and members of society. Diao was inspired to help out from his own childhood. As a kid in Dakar, he found himself forced to abandon school in an effort to make ends meet in the family. “It has been a very hard and tough journey from when I was 13 years old, when I left my home town, up to when I finished my career,” Diao says.
He is currently helping out the Senegalese youth by way of his Salif Diao Foundation Sport 4 Charity, established three years ago. The academy functions in various areas of Senegal, including two branches in the capital of Dakar. At the academy, trainers and coaches do inspections with the students making sure they are attending and fulfilling their school obligations, upon which they can then begin football training. In fact, students of Diao’s academy are required to attend school and reach a specific academic rate, depending on the region. At least one branch is located right next to a vocational training center, and the academy students there are urged to follow practical courses such as metalwork and furniture making, for the purposes of having a trade to fall back on if a football career doesn’t materialize. “If you don’t have a basic education in this life, it’s hard, it’s tough and as we know especially in Africa, out of 1,000 players, maybe one would become a professional footballer,” Diao says. This is confirmed by a 2014 report done by the Professional Footballers’ Association, which determined that of Africans who enter football academies at the age of 16, half will not be in the system after two years, and 75% fall out of the system by the age of 21.