Few things in football can bring a crowd to its feet – or lift a player off his or hers – like an overhead kick. The acrobatic finish is one of the most spectacular sights in the game and a firm favourite with supporters, so imagine the reaction to a player scoring three in just four weeks, a few years after burying a bicycle kick so good it was shortlisted for the FIFA Puskás Award. Step forward Moussa Sow, who caused a sensation last month when he managed exactly that feat for Fenerbahce.
The Senegal striker’s dazzling trio of strikes were big news in Turkey, where passions for the game tend to run especially high. While slow-motion replays of his overhead goals were broadcast on a seemingly constant loop, an interview with Sow was edited to show the player speaking upside down. Fenerbahce joined in with the fun too, releasing replica shirts with Sow’s name and squad number both inverted. “That was nice, it was the first time I’d seen that,” the forward explained to FIFA.com, his eye-catching efforts among nine goals from 16 games for Fener this term. “I found that all really fun. It’s not often you see it.”
The same could be said of Sow’s knack for bicycle kicks, though he claims to have no special technique. “There’s no secret to it, nor do I train in any particular way to do them,” he insisted, despite notching similar goals during his time in France, where he played for Rennes and Lille. “It’s instinctive. If I can try one, I just try it. But it’s true that it’s a spectacular move which I have a particular soft spot for.”
He also looks to have a soft spot for comebacks, having successfully retraced his steps at both club and international level since the summer. Sow left Fenerbahce for Al-Ahli last term and helped himself to a creditable 16 goals in 30 matches, but he soon found that his Qatari exile left him out of the Senegal team reckoning. “If he wants to play for the national team, he only has to come back to top-level football,” explained Lions of Teranga coach Aliou Cissé in May. “It’s that simple.”
Sow promptly returned to the Fenerbahce fold and was rewarded with an international recall in October, 18 months on from his last appearance. He marked his return in style by grabbing a goal in Senegal’s 2-0 defeat of Cape Verde Islands – their first outing in the third round of qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. “Personally, I don’t see it as a return to favour,” he said. “I’ve been in the same form for several years now. I’ve always given my best and I feel like I’ve been consistent in my performances. It was the coach’s decision and he wasn’t picking me. Then I moved back to Fenerbahce and he picked me again. That’s it. I’m still the same; I haven’t changed, either on or off the pitch.”
His experience could well prove vital for the Lions of Teranga when the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday. As the oldest outfield player in the squad, Sow is now a senior figure among a group of players bursting with young talent, such as Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Balde Keita of Lazio and Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. “He’s the African player, not just the Senegalese player, who impresses me the most at the moment,” said Sow of Mane. “He was already good before he joined Liverpool, but he’s now reaching a new level with the Reds.
“Overall, Senegal have a very good generation of players right now,” added Sow, his own first cap dating back to 2009. “Having played with Mamadou Niang, Souleymane Diawara and Kader Mangane, I can tell you that Senegal have always had quality players. But today I get the feeling that some really good players are making a big splash with their clubs. That said, Senegal have been one of the favourites for the Cup of Nations since 2002 and we’ve never won anything. We’re not getting carried away, but this might just be the right moment to make up for that.”
Plenty of heavyweight names will be looking to block their path, of course, starting with fellow Group B hopefuls Algeria in a section that also includes the likes of Tunisia and Zimbabwe. “There’s also Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco and so on. It’s very open.” Competition is sure to be intense, but Sow has pinpointed victory in the continental showcase as his No1 priority. “Winning the Cup of Nations would be a first – it would be historic,” he said. “Senegal have already been to the World Cup and even showed what they could do in 2002, though it’s true we wouldn’t be against returning.” Given Sow’s habit of making successful returns, that feat is certainly not beyond him.