Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will be the first African goalkeeper to play in the Champions League final and looking back at his journey, he said he would not have believed it if he was told he would play at this level years ago.
“I would have laughed a lot,” he told BBC Sports Africa. “I would have said that it’s nice to dream and that’s pushing it, and actually I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” he replied as he laughed.”
At 22, he was without a contract for a year and was already considering quitting football before he got a contract with Marseille and to Reims, from where he joined Rennes. After an impressive season with Rennes, Chelaea came calling and he has been nothing short of exceptional.
“So, today it’s true that it’s really something unique that I am experiencing. It’s something that I come to enjoy because I know where I’m from. To have reached this level, it is something I can be proud of. And also for all those who have supported me to see how much I have achieved.
“Many things were difficult for me in those moments and that was eating me away and getting harder and harder to handle. I couldn’t even watch a football match anymore because it was so difficult for me. My family was always there to support me, they were more than important, because I think without them, I would have decided to quit.”
Mendy is just the fourth African goalkeeper to play in the English Premier League after Zimbabwe’s Bruce Grobbelaar, Nigeria’s Carl Ikeme and Ghana’s Richard Kingson and he sees it as an influence on the coming generation.
“It’s a responsibility for me, to not just be good, but to give my best and to be the best I can every weekend, to prove that African goalkeepers can establish themselves in the Premier League,” he said.
“This is something that is close to my heart because of my journey. It gives me even more strength to succeed. And – I hope anyway – to pave the way for other goalkeepers.”
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