Senegal Country Profile

Senegal: The Lions of Teranga

Record in International Competitions

TournamentAppearancesBest Finish
FIFA World Cup2Quarter-Finals (2002)
Olympics1Quarter-Finals (2012)
Africa Cup of Nations15Runner-up (2002, 2019)
African Nations Championship2Fourth Place (2009)
FIFA U-20 World Cup3Quarter-Finals (2019)
FIFA U-17 World Cup1Second Round (2019)
Africa U-20 Cup of Nations7Runner-up (2015, 2017, 2019)
Africa U-17 Cup of Nations2Group Stage (2011, 2019)


The late Papa Bouba Diop runs off to celebrate his famous winner against France in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Unlike many of its peers currently at the top of African football, football’s introduction to Senegal came a little later. The sport was first introduced to Senegal around 1915, with L’Union Sportive des Tireurs Dakarois being the first club founded in 1929 and prominent power Jeanne d’Arc coming into existence a few months later. For the first half of the 20th century, Senegalese football was dominated by two major cities, the capital Dakar and Saint-Louis. A tense rivalry emerged between the two competing scenes, resulting in power struggles throughout the early history of Senegalese football.

The first exposure beyond local football for Senegal’s early clubs came in the French West African Cup, which ran between 1948 and 1960 and was a tournament that involved club teams from France’s colonies in West Africa. Senegalese teams dominated the tournament during its existence, with Jeanne d’Arc and US Goree distinguishing themselves by capturing multiple titles. This success established the footballing potential in the country before independence in 1960 and the founding of CAF and the national team.

Senegal’s national team, known as the Lions of Teranga, was involved in CAF’s early days, joining as a member association in 1963 following their affiliation to FIFA in 1962. The Teranga Lions took part in the 1965 and 1968 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations in the tournament’s early days, putting up respectable performances in both and obtaining fourth place in 1965. However, a drought without success followed for Senegal that lasted until the late 1980’s before the national team started to hint at the great success that would come. They made it back to the Africa Cup of Nations in 1986, and became a regular fixture as the tournament transformed into the larger showcase it is today. Senegal hosted its first and only Africa Cup of Nations in 1992, making it to the quarter-finals and beginning a trend of making it to the knockout rounds.

Aliou Cissé has been the Senegal national team coach since 2015. A highly influential figure and combative midfielder in his day, Cissé was the captain of the famous 2002 World Cup team.

All these signs of improvement resulted in 2002 being the year where Senegal established its reputation as a team to fear. In January the team made it to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, only losing due to a poor performance in the penalty kick shootout. However, the AFCON was only a teaser of what this team was capable of. Qualifying for their first World Cup in Japan and South Korea, the opening matchup with former colonizers France was only appropriate for the gravity of the occasion. A stellar performance from the team and goal by Papa Bouba Diop shocked the defending champions, and sparked the fire for a run that took Senegal to the quarter-finals. Many of the members of that squad had previously established themselves in French club football, and following the tournament multiple players earned big-money moves to the English Premier League. The legacy of this tournament has since put a spotlight on Senegal, and the country continues to regularly produce talents that succeed in the top levels of European football as well as in African national team competition.

Sadio Mané: The Liverpool player is a global superstar and icon in his country today.

Championnat du Senegal (Ligue 1) and Youth Academies

     In order to address the issue of Senegalese football neglecting talents from outside the cities and to improve the quality of the league, major reforms were initiated in 1969 by Lamine Diack, the head administrator of Senegalese football at the time. While powerhouses Jeanne d’Arc and L’US Goree were exempted from the new regulations, many clubs were merged together to strengthen the fledgling national competition. It appears the reformation was a necessary step for Senegalese domestic football, but it came at the cost of a long period where Senegalese clubs and the national team lacked relevancy for nearly 20 years on the African stage as the Dakar-dominated football scene slowly expanded to be more inclusive and incorporate talent from throughout the country. 

The urgent issue in Senegalese domestic football now is the continuing development of professionalism in its league. In his comprehensive university study of Senegalese football clubs, Assane Diop summed up the issue by quoting journalist Abdoulaye Diaw: “Il est grand temps que nos clubs cessent d’être des A.S.C (Assocîations Sportives Culturelles) pour devenir des F.C (Football Clubs)- “It is time that our clubs ceased to be A.S.C. (Cultural Sports Associations) to become F.C. (Football Clubs)”. What Diaw meant is that Senegalese clubs must transform from being cultural sporting institutions to becoming private businesses in order to increase the level of professionalism and consistently generate their own revenue. 2009 marked the year when Senegal’s top two league divisions became fully professional. A minimum salary was established for players and clubs are required to form a commercial company that is held accountable by reporting its finances to the Senegalese Professional Football League (LSFP).

While the national league continues to develop since turning professional, youth academies have played a massive part in aiding the journey of young Senegalese players to Europe, establishing themselves before the professional era of the league. The two names that are well-known to European clubs these days is Diambars and Generation Foot. These academies have progressed into the most significant forces in Senegalese football today because of the partnerships they have formed with European clubs. The best talents from these clubs move to Europe at 18 and have an established pipeline to navigate their way to success. The well-known ASPIRE Academy based in Qatar also has a satellite academy in Senegal that has been regularly sending talent to Europe as well. Therefore, while the domestic scene continues to struggle to reach the standards of top African leagues, academies continue to prosper and establish firm networks to maintain Senegal’s high exportation of talent abroad.

Prominent Clubs

ASC Jaraaf

A picture of the RSC Jaraaf side from 1969

Jaraaf established themselves as one of Senegal’s clubs through success in the French West African Cup, winning the inaugural edition in 1948 under the name Foyer France. Since independence, the club has a history of consistently being among the top clubs, winning the most titles of all Senegalese clubs with 12 and 15 Coupe du Senegal trophies. The club was established in its modern form following the 1969 Lamine Diack-led reform, merging Foyer France with a club called Espoirs de Dakar. ASC Jaraaf have the distinction of being prominent in both the early stages of Senegalese domestic football and the modern professional era, which cannot be said for most of the traditional ASC clubs like Jeanne d’Arc.

ASC Jeanne D’Arc

It hasn’t been prosperous times lately, but for a long time ASC Jeanne d’Arc was the other traditional sporting and cultural association power in Dakar, winning ten Ligue 1 titles including the inaugural championship post-independence in 1960. The club reached the farthest any Senegalese team has ever gone in CAF competition when they made the 1998 CAF Cup final (Confederation Cup today), losing to Tunisia’s Sfaxien 3-1 on aggregate. However, ever since a run of success at the beginning of the 21st century, Jeanne d’Arc failed to adapt to Senegal’s new professional era, getting relegated in 2011.


Idrissa Gana Gueye: The current Paris St. Germain midfielder helped Diambars on their journey to professional status as a teenager before moving to France.

Diambars are one of the great stories in world football and representative of why football in West Africa continues to improve its standing. The club was founded in 2003 by a group of footballers which notably includes French World Cup winner and Dakar-born Patrick Vieira, Bernard Lama, and Jimmy Adjovi-Bocco. Their vision emphasizes educational opportunities to train Senegalese talents off-the-field as well as providing excellent footballing opportunities in Europe. Diambars worked their way up the lower divisions of Senegalese football and obtained promotion to Ligue 1 soon after the start of the professional era in 2011. Winning their first title in 2013, the club has quickly become not only a credible force in domestic football, but a well-known name for the young talents it regularly produces who have graduated to European football.

Génération Foot

Sadio Mané and Ismaïla Sarr: Two of Génération Foot’s most visible graduates today, with both now starring in the English Premier League.

Génération Foot, in a similar case to Diambars, have rapidly ascended to the top of the domestic game since their founding in 2000 by Mady Touré, a former footballer who played in France. Touré drew upon his connections in France to form a very close partnership with French Ligue 1 side FC Metz. This relationship, signed in 2003, has been very fruitful for both sides. As Génération Foot players moved in increasing numbers to Metz, the French club provided financial support that helped aid the building of new top-class facilities in 2013.

The club’s reputation for producting talent for the top levels of European football is well known, but Génération Foot has made notable achievements in Senegalese domestic football. Since the inauguration of the new facilities, the club earned successive promotions from the third and second tiers starting in the 2014-15 season. In the process, the club produced an unprecedented feat by winning the 2015 Coupe du Senegal as a third tier side to qualify for CAF competition. Winning their first Ligue 1 title in their first top-flight season, the club’s ascent has cooled a bit, but are now a force on all fronts.

Former players from Senegal’s top clubs and academies

ASC JaraafASC Jeanne d'ArcDiambarsGénération Foot
Papa Bouba DiopRoger MendyIdrissa Gana GueyeSadio Mané
Henri CamaraDame N'DoyePapa Badou NdiayeIsmaïla Sarr
Mame Biram DioufPape Malick DiopKara MbodjPapiss Demba Cissé
Louis CamaraAbdoulaye FayeSaliou CissDiafra Sakho