ABDALLAH SIMA once dreamed of following in the footsteps of El Hadji Diouf when he was playing on the streets of Dakar.
Now he can’t wait to step up for Rangers – the same team his hero once played for.
22-year-old attacker Sima has been loaned to Gers from Brighton for a season.
In 2011, Diouf made a temporary move from Blackburn Rovers to Ibrox, winning the title and League Cup.
Seeing Diouf making a name for himself in his country, as well as with the likes of Liverpool and Bolton, Sima was convinced he could do it.
He said: “Everyone in Senegal dreams of playing for the national team and being like El Hadji Diouf, Sadio Mane or Henri Camara.” They were the best strikers in the country.
“Everyone looks up to them. I just have to keep working and improving.
“But I also don’t forget where and how I started. Like everyone else in our neighborhood in Dakar, where I grew up, I played a lot of football.
“It might have been just on the road, but I always dreamed of getting that far.
“Football is a popular game at home, everyone enjoys it and it is played all the time.
“I was out there, even standing in goal and catching the ball.
“I have four older brothers and they all played football on the local team.
“It was great to watch them and I wanted to be like them and follow them.
“I got my first football boots and even though I was playing in my neighborhood, people told me I had talent.
“They said I should work on my game and that I could make something of myself.
“I don’t know exactly when that was, but I remember hearing: ‘Sima, it’s time to take football more seriously’.”
“Maybe El Hadji Diouf and the others were in our neighborhood at the time and played like that.
“When I first started taking football seriously I always gave as much as I could and that got me to where I am now.
“I went to the local football center that works with the academy in Evian, France, and they asked me if I wanted to join their project and move there.
“I was 17. Anyone who wants to play football in Senegal dreams of Europe and I was the same.”
The local center was the amateur football club Medina. After moving to France, Sima joined Czech club MAS Taborsko in 2020 on the advice of agent Daniel Chrysostome.
He knew nothing about the country or its football. And when Covid struck shortly after, he had a hard time.
However, less than six months later, the youngster joined Slavia Prague after they saw him score in a game against Viktoria Zizkov.
Sima added: “What did I know about the Czech Republic? For example, I knew Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky, but I didn’t know that they came from there.
“So I probably really didn’t know anything.
“When Covid came, that was the most difficult moment for me. I had my doubts about the move.
“I went to the Czech Republic to be able to play but I had only been there about a week when I was told that all games were cancelled.
“Think about it: I was in a foreign country, in a new environment and in a whole new language.
“It was very difficult for me to live like this, but I tried not to think about it and didn’t want to give in.
“In fact, I took a vow and worked harder.
“My coach Miloslav Brozek, who speaks French, helped me a lot in Tabor, especially at the beginning when it was the most difficult. Little by little I learned English and also began to understand Czech.”
Sima’s sheer determination to succeed saw him far surpass the fitness targets set for him by his club during the isolation period.
He said, “I’ve always tried to do more than everyone else and that’s what pushed me.”
Sima’s father died when he was still a child.
And the player knows his family at home is proud of his achievements.
In an interview in the Czech Republic, he added: “I lost my father very early, so I only know my mother.
“I try to keep in touch with my whole family.
“I have five sisters in total, so we are ten in total. You are all proud of me.
“But of course it’s not easy and it’s very difficult for my mother as well as for me.
“But she understands now that this is my job and she’s proud that I’m fine.”
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