Seny Dieng, a Zurich player in Senegal’s goals

“I stayed focused, focus.” In front of the media microphones which are strained above the barrier of the mixed zone, Seny Dieng recounts his match. The supposed “weak link” was one of the rare satisfactions of the sluggish debut of Senegal in the African Cup of Nations (CAN), painfully winner of Zimbabwe on Monday in Bafoussam, thanks to a penalty from Sadio Mané in added time (1-0).

The Liverpool star played the expected role of the savior. Clean on his line and reassuring in his outings, Seny Dieng has also escaped criticism, and it is more unexpected. Third goalkeeper of the Teranga Lions, he was established only because of the positive tests for the covid of the holder Edouard Mendy, “keeper” of Chelsea and national pride, and Alfred Gomis, who succeeded him at Stade Rennais . Few knew the number 3, only one selection before that in March 2021 in Thiès against Eswatini (ex-Swaziland). The Dakar newspaper The Daily even called it a “find”. So Seny Timothy Dieng tells. In French with a strong Swiss-German accent.

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Seny Dieng was born in Zurich on November 23, 1994 to a Senegalese father and a Swiss mother. Double national, he is one of the two Swiss in this CAN with the Genevan of Xamax Dylan Tavares, selected with Cape Verde. He started soccer in Wiedikon, played at neighborhood clubs like Young Fellows Juventus and Red Star (where he settled as a goalkeeper), before being spotted by Grasshopper at 16. Three years later, he made a place for himself as the third goalkeeper (already) of the professional squad, behind Roman Bürki and Davide Taini.

Boost of fate

Seny Dieng has a lot of qualities but not patience. In February 2016, he left GC, where he accumulated around twenty appearances on the bench but no minutes in the pros, to sign in Duisburg, in the second Bundesliga. Four months later, the club is relegated. He only plays with the reserve anyway. He wants to leave, and gets to do a test at Rochdale, a club in the English third division. It looks like the start of a career funeral, but its fate changes. He was spotted by a Queens Park Rangers scout during a warm-up match with Rochdale, and Duisburg eventually sold him to QPR.

Dieng then began a series of loans that looked like an initiatory course in English football, visiting Stevenage (English fourth division), Dundee (Scottish Premier League) then Doncaster (League One, English third division), where he finally became the holder. “Coach Darren Moore has finally given me the confidence I need. I no longer risked my place at the slightest mistake and I made great progress ”, he explained last year to Peter Birrer of the Linth Newspaper. He had returned to Loftus Road a year ago, had won there, had just been called up for the first time by coach Aliou Cissé. “Starting with Senegal is the proudest moment of my career so far,” he recalled just before the CAN. For the occasion, his father had made the trip to Thiès, being even one of the rare spectators present in the stadium.

The best goalkeeper in the Championship?

Well installed in London, undisputed holder in a club at the head of the Championship (considered the toughest championship in the world), in the race for a promotion in the Premier League, Seny Dieng has extended his contract until 2024. At QPR, his coach did not try to prevent him from realizing his dream of living an CAN but feared the consequences of his absence. “It’s a big loss,” said Mark Warburton last week. I trust our other goalkeepers but when you lose a player of this quality it hurts a lot. I say to Seny all the time: go ahead and show you’re the best in the league. “

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Seny Dieng would now like to stretch his interim in the goal of Senegal, at least until the next match, Friday against Guinea in Bafoussam. The dark-skinned kid from Zurich, who has become a light-skinned Senegalese international, has learned patience.

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