In today’s highly professional football, as they like to call it, there’s still room for charming stories like this. Which is remarkable and is a breath of hope.
Call it the fabulous story of Moustapha Cissé.
Moustapha Cissé was born in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, in September 2003. After losing his father, he decided to leave the country, travel through North Africa, cross the Mediterranean Sea and try his luck in Europe . At 16, he arrived in southern Italy.
It was collected by the Cooperativa Social Rinascita, an association that welcomes asylum seekers and foreign refugees, which carries out very important work with these people in the Puglia region, in cities such as Lecce, Taranto and Bari.
It is thanks to this association that Cissé began to play football. But here we go.
Before that, it must be said that a Senegalese named Niang Baye Hassane, also a refugee, works at the association. Niang works as a mediator and translator for refugees, but he is also passionate about football and has even coached a club: San Cesario.
It was he who launched the idea in 2019 of creating a team made up of refugee and displaced players from the association.. They called it ASD Rinascita Refugees and it began to compete precisely this year 2019, in the third regional division: eighth level of Italian football.
“Sport is an important tool as a means of integration into a country. It makes it possible to compete with other teams with a fundamental objective: the integration of these young people. They come from different parts of the world: Nigeria, Sudan, Burkina Faso and there is also an Italian, who decided to join us in this challenge,” said Niang Baye Hassane during the presentation of ASD Rinascita Refugees.
“The team was born with the intention of giving normality to the lives of these boys. I gave them some advice and established a concept: take everything seriously. We participate, we compete and we will win. If we don’t win, that’s fine, but the intention is to bring home a useful result, with maximum respect for the rules and with discipline.”
At that time, football was already firmly rooted in the habits of the association and these young people had been playing together for several years, so they felt ready to embark on the competition.
Interestingly, the team even had a famous godfather: Totó Nobile, former champion of Inter Milan, with a long career in clubs like Lecce, Reggina and Pescara, who immediately left a remark that was to become prescient.
“These boys are young, they have potential, they are stubborn and, if they have one thing in mind, they won’t stop without achieving it. I say this because I know them. They can aspire to divisions higher in the future, honestly. They are educated and have a lot of talent. If luck follows them, they can aspire to important goals because they have all the qualities to do so.
Less than three years after these remarks, Moustapha Cissé was already at Atalanta.
He had arrived at the association at the age of 16 and like so many other children: without a father, without a mother, without parents, completely alone, without papers and with only the clothes he was wearing. Like almost all refugees, he didn’t speak a word of Italian either.
It was Niang Baye Hassane, the team’s mentor and coach, who helped him integrate into Europe.
A few months later, he looked at Moustapha Cissé and felt that there was talent there to go far in football. He invites her to join the association team and wins the bet.
The Guinean had speed, knockdown ability and a powerful shot. He established himself as a spearhead and helped the team move up to the second regional division.
After that, and while participating in a friendly match between Rinascita Refugees against Lecce, Moustapha Cissé was discovered by Atalanta scouts. The Guinean player was closely watched by the northern Italian club, which has a tradition of betting on young players: Amad Diallo, Musa Barrow, Timothy Castagne or Gianluca Mancini are good examples.
For several months, Atalanta supported the player, until February they signed him. With the legal support of lawyer Roberto Nitto, or was it not Moustapha Cissé a refugee who arrived in the country without papers, Atalanta managed to take the young man to the Zingonia training center.
Once again, Niang Baye Hassane was instrumental in supporting the young man throughout the process.
On February 24, on the social networks of Rinascita Refugees, the announcement appeared that left Italy speechless. “Our Moustapha Cissé, a Guinean born in 2003, is an Atalanta player. Good luck, we are proud to have you with us.
He left the association, then went to Bergamo, was integrated into the spring team and had a brutal impact: three days after his arrival he made his debut and scored twice in the 3-1 win over Milan. A week later he was already called up by Gian Piero Gasperini to train with the main team. A sign that the coach already had it in mind.
On March 9, in the third game for the Primavera side, he scored again, in the 1-0 triumph over Napoli, and four days later he was called up to face Genoa, in Serie A.
Injuries to Malinovskyi, Miranchuk, Ilicic, Zapata and Boga forced the coach to turn to the 18-year-old. It didn’t come out of the bank, true, but the seed was sown.
But this Sunday, a week later, he entered the field in the 65th minute to replace Muriel and scored the winning goal in Bologna in the 82nd minute: he received the pass from Pasalic, turned and hit hard. He who also helped Pasalic to score as well, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
We are happy with the victory. But above all, I’m much happier for Cissé, who worked hard and deserves to live tonight,” said central Demiral at the end of the match.
For someone who fled Guinea two years ago and arrived in Italy not knowing what to expect, for someone who just over a month ago was scoring goals in the divisions amateurs, it’s really extraordinary what happened.
Perhaps for this reason, Cissé left the pitch ignored by his teammates. Knowing that it’s a fabulous life story, but it’s only the beginning.