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Kouyaté, Senegalese Defender: Islam, People Our Motivation in World Cup

"A person's destiny doesn't lie in their hands. No one's. A person's destiny is with God, you never know what may happen tomoerow""

Facing many setbacks on the national level over the past decade, Nottingham Forest defender Cheikhou Kouyaté is now beaming with hope and passion, as he relates his country’s achievement in soccer so far to his Islamic faith, and people’s love and support.

“I’ve been in this wonderful team for 10 years, our national team which we love, which makes us want to die for it on the pitch,” he told Olympics.com as part of the new Olympic Channel original series “World at their Feet”.

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Kouyaté recounted many setbacks he had with the Senegal national team in several tournaments, including Olympic Games London 2012, a FIFA World Cup in 2018, and three other African Cup of Nations tournaments.

But in February this year, something Kouyaté had waited a decade for finally happened, as Senegal defeated Egypt to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

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God Helped Me

Kouyaté said it is his strong belief in God that helped him overcome the repeated disappointments and later qualify for the Qatar World Cup 2022.

“For me, it was my faith, because I always say the same thing to friends who know me,” he shares. “[I’d say], ‘If we don’t win, we’ve tried, but it’s destiny.’ It wasn’t time – wasn’t the time for us to hold that cup in our hands.

“A person’s destiny doesn’t lie in their hands. No one’s. A person’s destiny is with God, you never know what may happen tomorrow,” he begins when asked what he would tell aspiring footballers.

“But you must believe in yourself. You must tell yourself that you’re strong, you can do it. But then you mustn’t forget that you’ll fall, several times. The hardest thing is to get up again, to look ahead, and say ‘OK, I can do it’.”

Bigger Dreams

As a member of the Senegal’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup, Kouyaté has a dream to become the first African country to lift the world’s biggest trophy.

“Everything is possible, and inshallah we will be ready.”

Senegal is one of six Muslim majority countries participating in Qatar World Cup 2022. The other Muslim countries are Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

The West African country’s population is mainly Muslim, making up to 97.2% of the total population.

With regard to the FIFA world cup, Senegal’s team is regarded as having the second best achievement for the Muslim World in the FIFA so far, after Turkey which came third in the 2002 Japan/South Korea World Cup.

Senegal and the Netherlands faced off in the World Cup on Monday, November 21. Up until the 84th minute each team was seeking their first goal.

A pair of late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen helped Netherlands secure a 2-0 victory over Group A opponents.

Unfortunately, Kouyate was stretchered off injured in the World Cup after he appeared to be hit by Frenkie de Jong as he leapt into the air to win a header with 20 minutes to go.