Amadou Haidara: Leipzig midfielder has mum’s picture on his shin pad

The Touchline Sports - Amadou Haidara: Leipzig midfielder has mum's picture on his shin pad

Family is everything, says the 25-year-old midfielder and Mali international Amadou Haidara who has his mother’s picture on his shin pad and plays better when he knows she is watching. His family has supported him since he began playing football with his neighbourhood friends but he also owes a lot to his past coaches, including those at the JMG Academy in Bamako.

Today Haidara is happy to use the money he earns in Germany to help his friends back home by building a medical centre in his hometown and organising football camps for children to provide them with opportunities he did not have as a kid.

Winning the DFB-Pokal in 2022 with RB Leipzig, whom he joined in 2019, was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, he says, and now his side are eager to get back into the top four when they take on TSG Hoffenheim this weekend. Haidara knows the DFB-Pokal semi-final against SC Freiburg will be tough but believes a win is possible and even beating FC Bayern München is not beyond his side as long as they are in good form.

You said recently in an interview that you sometimes go bowling with Simakhan. Who is the better bowler?

“Yes, it’s true that Mo and I play occasionally. Not just Mo, I also play with Nkunku and Nordi when he is here. We often have a competition to see who is best. I never come last! I think the last time we played, Christo lost. He finished in last place.”

Your second-last game of the season sees you go up against FC Bayern. Leipzig are yet to beat Bayern. How important is it to finally end that?

“There have been lots of matches where we could have beaten them. Many times they have scored a goal late to win it or draw level. It’s the small details that decide it. Even in the final that we lost against them here in Leipzig, it was the details that decided it. They managed to score a goal right at the end. And we drew against them in the league. So, I think we have a chance of beating them. But we need to be completely ready both mentally and physically in order to win the game. I think we can do it.”

We have seen the photos of you laying the foundations for a medical centre in your hometown of Kela and you often organise football camps in Mali. How important is that to you?

“It means a lot to me. I grew up there and helping and supporting people is simply part of who I am. That is how I was raised by my family. I thank God for all he has given me – I have the financial means to help others. And if I can use that money to help my friends back home, I will do so with pleasure. The football camp is for the kids. I always try to get my teammates from the national team to come down and play. It’s nice for the kids to see their idols in real life. And I am just happy to see them happy. Because when I was younger, I didn’t have that chance. I try to help them bit by bit and show them the world of football in order to help them become professional footballers themselves.”

What phase of the project are you currently in?

“Yes, we are now in the recruitment phase. We had a huge number of kids turn up to the first camp. We had 100 come down. For the second camp, we had to increase the capacity as there was so much demand and the kids were crying. For the second camp, we teamed up with Bamako to increase the capacity. It went well.”

How connected are you to your hometown and do people there follow your performances and success over here?

“I was born in Bamako. It is also my father’s hometown. He told me a lot about how it was when he was growing up and the lack of medical centres. It was difficult for me and once I went with him to look and saw first hand the difficulties. So, I decided to build some

medical centres. It has gone very well so far, and we are planning to open the first hospital in June.”                                                                                                     

Apparently, there is a photo of your mother on your shin pad. How important is family to you?

“My family is everything to me. My mother gives me belief, she gave my life. She is everything to me. And I have her picture on my shin pad. Before every game, I embrace her and then can focus on my game.”

You have said in the past that you play better if your mother is watching. Is that true?

“Yes, it really is. Every time she comes to watch, I score a goal or make a difference in the game. She has come to Leipzig twice now and each time I have played better than normal. I don’t score many goals but each time she comes to watch, I score. She gives me a lot of strength and she supports me.”

When and how did you first get into football?

“Like any boy, I started playing with my friends in the neighbourhood. It was good fun. We left school and met up to play football. There is an academy in Mali called the JMG Academy, who signed me when I was ten years old. That was a key moment for me as I knew they were preparing us to become professional footballers so I knew I could make it. That’s when I started reflecting and focusing my efforts on becoming a professional footballer.”

Are there any coaches or friends who have helped you become the player you are today?

“Yes, my family has supported me since the very beginning. It wasn’t easy for them to see me join an academy at the age of ten. I had to leave my family to play in the academy and

only saw them on weekends. They accepted that and encouraged me at every opportunity. They came to watch me and support me at the academy. They were always there for me.”

Were there any coaches who made a particularly big impact on you? 

“My coaches have been very good to me. They have taught me everything that I know today. They were tough on me at times to show me that the world of professional football wasn’t going to be easy. They showed me that I had to fight and work harder than everyone else. I will never forget those lessons.”

What memories do you have of your time at the JMG Academy Bamako?

“I have lots of memories. It is something I will always remember. When I meet my friends in the national team whom I played with in the academy, we talk about how we were when we were younger and what we got up to. It’s unforgettable.”

Back to the present – what did it mean to you to clinch Leipzig’s first-ever trophy last season?

“It was an unforgettable moment in Berlin. All the players involved will remember that forever. If you watch the match back, it was a challenging game for us. We went behind, we scored, it went into extra time, and we got a red card. And in the end, we won. We celebrated together with the fans, we hugged each other. It was simply an incredible moment for everyone. We stayed on the pitch for an hour to celebrate together with the fans. And then we returned to Leipzig and continued the party. I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling. The first trophy in the club’s history. I am very happy to be part of that and to be part of this club.”

You are in the DFB Pokal semi-final and will face Freiburg, the team that knocked Bayern out. What is the atmosphere like at Freiburg and how is it different from playing against Dortmund or Bayern?

“I wouldn’t say it’s different. Playing at home with your fans is a big advantage. They push you when you get tired, they encourage you forward. And playing away from home is different, you have to be ready. You have to prepare well. If we win, we are in the final. They lost the final against us. It will be very difficult. And as I said, we have to work hard and make sure we prepare well. If we are in good form, I think we can win.”

You are a very well-rounded player. Where do you think you can improve?

“It’s difficult to say. I think I need to concentrate more on what the coach tells me. I think I play better when I am totally focused on those instructions. That’s what I need to work on.”

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a professional footballer?

“I like football a lot. I think I would pursue football – that is my passion.”

You got off to a slow start to the season, but your form as a team picked up after Marco Rose came in. What did he change when he came in?

“He was able to connect with the team. He showed us how he wanted to change the team. And I think it gave us the belief to beat Dortmund. When we won that game, a lot changed. We knew that if we could beat Dortmund, we could beat the other teams too. That changed a lot. We put a good run of wins together before the international break and that gave us a lot of confidence as players. Everyone was able to express themselves on the pitch and develop as players.”

You have worked under some experienced coaches in your career, such as Nagelsmann. What can you learn from Marco Rose?

“Each coach has their own system. Julian was a very tactical coach; he asked a lot of us in a tactical sense. He wanted us to be well-positioned on the pitch. And with Marco, it’s very similar. He gives us clear roles. With Julian, I was a bit more offensive but with Marco, I play more defensively. It’s up to me to adapt to the system and get better as a player. Each coach has a different view of football, and it is up to the player to adapt and improve.”

What objectives or dreams do you have in football?

“I am 25 years old; I am at Leipzig. I am looking to improve all the time to win titles with this club. Our objective is to win the cup again this year and qualify for the Champions League. Those are my objectives – to always be in the Champions League.”

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