- Adama Ba a key player for Mauritania
- Led Les Mourabitounes to their maiden AFCON appearance
- Now hoping to help propel the team into the FIFA Arab Cup
As a teenager, Adama Ba left the Mauritanian city of Gouraye for France, where he was hoping to complete his studies. He can scarcely have imagined the future that lay in store for him, including playing for several well-known clubs and becoming a pivotal figure for the Mauritanian national team.
After starting his professional career with Brest, Ba joined Bastia, where he became the first Mauritanian to score in the French top-flight. Stints followed with Chamois Niortais and AJ Auxerre before his 2017 move to Turkey, where he would represent Gaziantep and later Giresunspor. He then joined Moroccan outfit RS Berkane, who loaned him to Lamia of Greece at the start of the year.
Stellar performances early in his career saw Ba make his Mauritania national-team debut at just 20 . He would later play a key role in helping Les Mourabitounes qualify for their maiden CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Ba spoke about his club and international experiences as well as his hopes of taking his country to the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ with victory over Yemen this Tuesday.
Change of direction
Ba’s life was turned upside down when Brest SC scouts spotted whim while playing for amateur club Metallo Sport. After some time in their academy, he got his first taste of professional football with the senior team and began making his mark in the French league.
Asked about those early days in France, Ba said, “When I moved to France the goal was to study, but I always told myself that I’d get the chance to play football there.”
“I was able to join Brest’s training academy and several years later I made my debut in the French league,” he added.
Ba’s impact earned him a call-up to the national team in October 2013, when he played against Canada in two friendly matches and scored his first international goal.
Discussing what he learned from his international debut, Ba replied: “My first year in the national team was the beginning of a long-term project by the Mauritanian Football Association. Game by game and year after year, I gained a lot of experience from playing many matches. Mauritanian football has developed a lot recently.
“It is a great honour to defend the colours of my country. It was a dream come true after I scored my first goal with the national team, which will remain in my memory forever,” Ba added.
A taste of success
Ba continued to play for Mauritania en route to their maiden Africa Cup of Nations appearance in 2019, where he took part in all three of their games.
Despite their early elimination from Egypt 2019, Ba insists the tournament was special for everyone involved and was the fruit of the tremendous efforts made by the country’s FA to develop the team, as well as the great work done by French coach Corentin Martins in recent years.
“Qualifying for the AFCON for the first time was the result of the great work done by the Mauritanian Football Association, headed by Ahmed Ould Yahya, who believed in Mauritanian football and has contributed to its many successes,” the 27-year-old explained.
Having also helped the team qualify for the next AFCON, scheduled for early next year, Ba says much credit goes to their French coach. “Coach Martins played a big role in the development of the team, and we’ve learned a lot from him as a coach and former player. This great achievement is the result of his hard work. This was our first AFCON appearance and the sweet taste of taking part in the final tournament and our experiences there are not something we’ll forget,” he said.
Ba and his team-mates have an opportunity to grace another tournament, the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, when they take on Yemen on Tuesday at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. The fixture is a one-game knockout, with the winner earning a place in the tournament’s final phase at the end of the year in Qatar.
Asked about the fixture, Ba said: “It’s an important game and won’t be easy, but we must give our all in order to qualify for the Arab Cup.
“The best thing about us is our team spirit, which is the reason we’ve had good results in recent years. It’s up to us to give everything now to make the finals,” he concluded.