Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade becomes Senegal’s flagship stadium

Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, was joined by a host of other world leaders yesterday (Tuesday) to inaugurate a 50,000-seat stadium that will become the new home of the national football team and the centrepiece of the 2026 Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

Sall was joined by the likes of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Adama Barrow of Gambia and football legend George Weah, who is now President of Liberia. Also in attendance at yesterday’s ceremony was FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Confederation of African Football (CAF) counterpart Patrice Motsepe.

A friendly match between a team of Senegal legends and an African all-star selection was part of the festivities. The stadium, located in the new city of Diamniadio, around 20 miles from the capital Dakar, was formerly known as the Stade du Sénégal, but has now been renamed Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade after Sall’s predecessor as President.

Turkish construction company Summa built the stadium at a reported cost of CFA156bn (£198.2m/€237.8m/$269.8m). In February 2020, Sall said Diamniadio was positioning itself as a “major sports centre” in Africa after work commenced on the new stadium.

The facility also comes complete with two training grounds, one of which will be equipped with an athletics track and a 2,000-seat grandstand. The project will source its energy needs entirely from a solar power plant, with Summa landing the contract to develop it in January 2020. Senegal is investing in sports facilities, with the 15,000-capacity Dakar Arena opening in August 2018.

The Stade du Sénégal project was revealed as Dakar was confirmed as the first African host of an Olympic event in October 2018. In July 2020, Dakar’s staging of the YOG was pushed back four years from 2022 to 2026 after an agreement was reached between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the local organising committee in the Senegalese capital.

Significant investments are being made toward youth and sport as part of the country’s overarching framework ‘Plan Sénégal émergent’, which sets out Sall’s vision to 2035. Mbaye Jacques Diop, a communications advisor at the Ministry of Sports, told the Reuters news agency yesterday that the new stadium was part of a programme to make Dakar a “sporting hub” for Africa.

The Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade will become the only one in Senegal that is certified for international football. The country’s last major stadium, Lat Dior in Thies, saw its certification removed by CAF in May 2021.

The delivery of the new stadium comes with Senegalese football riding the crest of a wave after the national team’s victory in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this month. “It is in this beautiful den that our valiant lions will celebrate their conquest of Africa and the world,” Sall said yesterday.

Images: Présidence du Sénégal