Senegal, the reigning African champion, did not falter in its first match of the final phase of the African Cup of Nations, unlike other contenders. The Lions of Teranga largely beat Gambia (3-0) in Yamoussoukro on Monday January 15, and they owe this success to their midfielder Lamine Camara (20).

The FC Metz player indeed scored the second and third goals for his selection. The first from a cross shot and the second, probably the most beautiful since the start of the CAN, from a curling shot which left Baboucarr Gaye, the Scorpions goalkeeper, no chance. Lamine Camara, who was logically elected “man of the match”, had unlocked his counter with the A selection on November 18, during a success against South Sudan in Dakar (4-0) during qualifications for the 2026 World Cup, two months after a first call-up to face Algeria in a friendly match in Dakar (0-1, September 12).

The Senegalese coach, Aliou Cissé, did not hesitate when including in the list of players selected to compete in the CAN this midfielder who revealed himself in the year 2023. “In barely a year, he won the African Nations Championship (CHAN) with the local selection in Algeria, then the CAN under 20, was transferred to Metz, where he started, and shines with the Lions of Teranga. It’s impressive”, appreciates Malick Daf, the coach of the local Lions.

Lamine Camara has many points in common with Sadio Mané. Like his illustrious elder, he was born in Casamance, went through Génération Foot, the famous training center located in Dakar, before joining the partner club FC Metz. “But the comparison stops there,” intervenes Olivier Perrin, former general manager of Génération Foot and who was a trainer for the Lorraine club. Sadio is an attacker, while Lamine is a box-to-box midfielder, who plays between the two surfaces, capable of recovering the ball, projecting himself forward and also scoring. »

Talented player

The young Senegalese international had, in an interview given in December to the site, specified that his models are the German Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) and especially his teammate in the selection Idrissa Gueye (Everton FC).

Born in Diouloulou, a commune of 2,800 inhabitants in Basse-Casamance, Lamine Camara began playing football in the Doumassou team during the Navetanes, these very popular neighborhood championships in Senegal, before starting his training in Dakar in the Galaxy FA academy. After a few months in the capital, the young player signed a license with Casa Sports, the big club in Ziguinchor.

“At the end of the 2018-2019 season, where he had progressed a lot thanks to his coach Setigui Faye, he was called up to the under-17 selection of the Ziguinchor League for the national phases, in Kaolack,” relates Siaka Bodian, general secretary of Casa Sports. This selection won the tournament, Lamine Camara was elected best player and was noticed by Salam Lam, one of the Génération Foot recruiters.

The Dakar academy manages to convince the young midfielder’s parents to let him return to the capital, “without submitting a memorandum of understanding to Casa Sports”, is surprised by Siaka Bodian, who is however pleased that the Ziguinchor club “participated in the training of this talented player.”

Starter at FC Metz

Once integrated into Génération Foot, Lamine Camara confirmed all his potential and quickly evolved in Senegalese Ligue 1. “He was above the rest. For me, it was obvious that he had to join FC Metz without too much delay to continue to progress,” explains Olivier Perrin, who remembers a player who was “shy and kind, but who once on the pitch was a little sanguine, didn’t always channel his energy and took a lot of warning”.

His brilliant performances at club level, but also with the local and under-20 teams, led to his inevitable departure for France and FC Metz, in February 2023, where he initially played with the reserve team (National 3) . “His progress went through this transfer. He is a player who has a lot of qualities and who has significant room for improvement. He has just turned 20 [January 1, 2024], we must not lose sight of the fact that his training is not completely completed,” insists Malick Daf. His first months in Metz were marked by an ankle injury, matches with the B team and four appearances in Ligue 2, but also an accession to Ligue 1 at the end of the 2022-2023 season.

Since the arrival of Romanian coach Laszlo Bölöni on the Grenats bench, Lamine Camara has become a starter. He stood out in October by scoring his first goal in Ligue 1 with a 58-yard shot during a championship match lost in Monaco (1-2). “He’s got that hitting quality as well. He showed it against Gambia, and he is a player who is very comfortable taking set pieces,” notes Olivier Perrin.

Before the CAN, Bernard Serin, the president of FC Metz, told Le Monde Afrique that “Lamine Camara will be missed by the team, which is fighting to maintain its position. » Without him, she was eliminated from the Coupe de France by Clermont Foot (1-1, 1-3 on the tabs) and beaten by Toulouse in Ligue 1 (0-1). The Lions of Teranga, on the other hand, hope to keep it until the final, on February 11, and carry it in triumph for a trophy brought back as in 2022 in Dakar.