Wonderkid Fati: from African suburb to Barcelona’s Camp Nou

Barcelona’s Anssumane Fati faces a phalanx of Real Betis defenders at the Camp Nou. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2019

Wonderkid Fati: from African suburb to Barcelona’s Camp Nou

  • Fati scored just two minutes into his full La Liga debut on a magical night when he hardly put a foot wrong in front of over 80,000 astonished Camp Nou fans who gave him a standing ovation
  • In Sao Paulo, his home neighborhood in the rundown suburbs of capital Bissau, the children yell Ansu Fati, Barca player! as they run around on ochre soil, under the tropical trees

BISSAU: Ansu Fati has made a long trip from the fields of Guinea-Bissau, where he played as a child, to Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium where the 16-year-old is playing with some of the biggest stars in the world.
Fati has made a stirring start to the season, scoring just two minutes into his full La Liga debut on a magical night when he hardly put a foot wrong in front of over 80,000 astonished Camp Nou fans who gave him a standing ovation as he left the field.
He was just seven years old when he first came to Spain and his startling talent meant he was invited to join Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy ‘La Masia’ aged 10.
It was an incredible achievement for a boy from the impoverished West African nation that has never been known for football.
In Sao Paulo, his home neighborhood in the rundown suburbs of capital Bissau, the children yell “Ansu Fati, Barca player!” as they run around on ochre soil, under the tropical trees.
Malam Romisio, who coached Fati as a child, told AFP how the boy used to play football wearing only socks or plastic sandals, easily dribbling the ball past bigger, stronger teammates.
When Fati made his debut with Barca’s first team at the end of August, the coach switched his allegiance from Real Madrid.
“If he continues like this, he will be a great player,” he predicted.
In Guinea Bissau, which is one of the world’s poorest and most fragile nations, Fati is a source of national pride.
Born on October 31, 2002, he lived in Bissau until he was six.
In the house where he grew up, Fati’s uncle Djibi Fati shows photos of the footballer as a child, dressed in traditional clothes, recalling how others used to tease him for his love of bread and butter.
“Every time he came back from playing football, he would ask for it,” he recalls.
When he was still very small, his father, Bori Fati, went to Portugal to look for work, later settling near Seville in southwestern Spain.
Bori picked olives, collected empty glasses in nightclubs and even helped build a high-speed rail track, recalls Amador Saavedra, who befriended him in Herrera, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Malaga.
It was only when the Communist mayor of Marinaleda, a nearby town, hired Bori as a driver and helped him financially, that he managed to bring his young family over in 2009.
“It’s a very beautiful story,” said Saavedra, 53.
Bori ended up training his young son at the Peloteros football school, which is free for thousands of children in Herrera and the surrounding towns.
When Fati arrived he quickly caused a sensation on the football pitch, said Jordi Figaroa Moreno, his first Spanish coach.
“He had a gift,” he told AFP. “The difference between him and his teammates was just huge, both technically and tactically. Among the youngsters, it’s rare to find children who can play as a team, but he had everything.”
Jose Luis Perez Mena, who runs the Peloteros school, described Fati as “very spontaneous” and “very cheerful” as well as “extroverted, but very quiet.”
His stellar success “has not gone to his head.”
Within a year of arriving in Spain, Fati joined Sevilla. In 2012, at the age of 10, he was enrolled in Barcelona’s youth system.
“Ansu was one of the youngest players ever to have entered La Masia,” said Marc Serra, his first coach at Barcelona.
“From the day that he arrived he was different, the type of player who invents football.”
In August, the teenager became the youngest player to score for Barcelona in La Liga. This month he became the club’s youngest player in a Champions League match.
Spain’s national coach Robert Moreno described Fati’s debut for Barcelona as “mind-blowing.” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde spoke of him as a “balanced boy” who is “at ease with himself.”
“We want him to learn to know himself, to know the first division, so he sees that it is hard and how much work and dedication it will take to succeed,” he said.
Speaking to Spain’s Onda Cero radio last month, his proud father said he had taught Fati to “be respectful and happy with everyone.”
“Every day I tell him: ‘This is your job: when you have the ball, turn toward the goal, don’t look anywhere else, and just shoot.”


Saudi electric car racer tastes victory in Mexico City E-Prix

Updated 18 February 2020

Saudi electric car racer tastes victory in Mexico City E-Prix

  • The first and second rounds of the championship were held on Nov. 22 and 23 at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah venue

RIYADH: Saudi driver Fahad Algosaibi has secured a major victory in the Mexico City E-Prix.

The electric car racer won the Pro-Am class of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy and finished fourth overall in the third race of the 2019/20 season which took place on Feb. 15 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

The participation of Algosaibi and Capt. Mashour bin Hojaila, both of Team Saudi Racing, was sponsored by the General Sports Authority (GSA) and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF).

Starting the race in pole position, Algosaibi recorded the fastest lap in his class, earning him extra points on top of those for pole position, to rank second in the championship on 36 points, just six behind Chinese driver Zhang Yaqi. Algosaibi also picked up points for not taking risks.

However, his teammate Hojaila ended up in hospital after his car was hit from behind by Chinese driver David Chang sending it crashing into a wall.

The organizing committee of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Championship was forced to cancel qualifying trials due to the poor condition of the circuit in some newly paved sections and used the results of free trials to determine the starting lineup. This meant Algosaibi started first and Hojaila second in the Pro-AM class.

The first and second rounds of the championship were held on Nov. 22 and 23 at Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah venue.