FANS WROTE SONGS FOR HIM. HE EVEN STARTED TO GROW ON THE PLAYERS OF THE RIVAL TEAMS. HE’S ENSHRINED IN THE HEARTS OF BEŞIKTAŞ FANS THANKS TO THE MAGNIFICENT GOALS HE’S SCORED. WE TALKED WITH THE SENEGALESE STAR ABOUT TURKEY, HIS SCORES AND PERSONAL LIFE.

How did you start playing football? Was it your childhood dream?
I started playing football at a very late age. At first I was playing with my neighbors just for fun. I didn't actually have a childhood dream. I only wanted an honest and normal life.

Though you’re born in France, you’re deeply attached to the Senegalese culture and Islam. Did this play any part in your decision to come to Turkey?
I try to be a good Muslim; this definitely had an effect but it wasn’t the only reason. The fact that Turkey was mostly a Muslim country was very important and it enabled me to live easily.

Your first game in Beşiktaş was against Feyenoord, and you scored a hat-trick. What did you feel at that moment?
We couldn’t have had a better start. I wanted to make a good impression at my first meeting with the Beşiktaş fans. My wish was to make them happy, and scored three goals.

What about the Liverpool game? What’s its story?
Everybody was really excited when the draw happened. It was very important for us to beat Liverpool. The past games of the club against Liverpool made it even more interesting. We played wonderfully and were able to get through.

You’re very good at penalty shots. What’s your secret?
Actually, there isn’t much mystery to it; it’s all about the keepers. I only decide the direction. It’s very important to be relaxed. Even if you’re kicking the penalty at the last minute, you should be at ease and calm as if you were playing golf.

What did you feel when you left Chelsea?
I moved from one big club to another one and am happy now. That’s what’s important.

Who’d you choose, Ronaldo or Messi?
I can’t pick one; they’re both great. It’d be unfair if I chose one of them.

Who are your favorite Turkish players?
Sow is my favorite foreign player. From the Turkish ones, I like Gökhan Töre.

Which goal in your career is unforgettable for you?
I scored my biggest goal against Paris Saint-Germain at the Champions League last year. It was a last-minute goal and got us into the semi-finals. The most beautiful goal I scored was two years ago, against Manchester United at the FA Cup. We won that game 1-0 and eliminated the United. 

Recently, you’ve made a donation for a mosque in Senegal, Koussanar, where your mother was born. What do you think about the mosques in Istanbul? Which one impresses you the most?
Istanbul is home to many beautiful mosques. My favorite is the Mimar Sinan Mosque in Ataşehir. It’s rather new but has a very impressive design. My favorite among the historical ones is the Blue Mosque.

What do you think about Islamophobia? It has been a fast-spreading phenomenon in recent years.
Islam is a 1,400-year-old religion and can't be besmirched by foul mouthing. If there’s such a widespread feeling towards Islam, we should look ourselves in the mirror and try to find the reasons why. We have to try to promote Islam in a better way. 

Do you like travelling? Which countries do you prefer for vacation?
I usually go on a vacation with my family once the season ends. We prefer Senegal, Paris and Dubai for vacation.

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