"The 90 minute dream” is a portrait project collaboration between painter Ben Betsalel and photographer Bastien Defives. Working with large-scale portrait drawing and painting as a catalyst for dialogue, this series of portrait happenings explores the experiences of 11 Senegalese football players and the human impact of the beautiful game.

Created within neighborhoods throughout Dakar, Senegal, where football is a prevalent part of the culture and an important element in the community fabric, the portrait project participants represent a wide range of ages and abilities, from young talents to past champions. Throughout the happening, each player shares their story, personal insights, fears, hopes and dreams. In so doing, concepts such as migration, business ethics, gender equality, and human rights are faced and given voice.

Each player is represented by three elements: short first-person narrative (crafted from the pre-portrait interview), large-scale portrait painting and photograph of an object of importance from his or her life. In exhibition, the portrait vignettes are shown alongside video installations and photographs documenting the creative process and environment.

Babacar Mane, 18 years old, midfielder
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: winner’s medal

Babacar Mane,
18 years old, midfielder

I have dedicated my life to football. My family and neighborhood are behind me. They believe in my ability to realize my dreams. I feel a lot of pressure to make it and financially it is very difficult for me and my family. There are many opportunities I cannot take because I don’t have the money for transport to and from training. This is why, after several months training with a professional team in Dakar, I had to return to the club in my neighborhood. Sometimes I feel frustration but that all disappears the second I put on my boots and am playing again.

My older brothers try to protect me from being taken advantage of and do everything they can to help me; they are my representatives. We have received offers from clubs in India and South America but are still waiting for the right deal. In one situation, someone was supposed to take me abroad, but the money for my ticket mysteriously vanished and I couldn’t afford to buy one myself. Anyway, the contract was not clear, so in the end we all decided that I shouldn’t sign it. I know many stories of players who have been lied to, have signed bad deals, or have trusted the wrong people — people who ask for money and then disappear.

I know I have the ability to play at a very high level, but I don’t want to take a wrong turn, to waste my talent. In many ways this is the most troubling part: to find the good path.

Defending the goal.

Halftime team-talk players dump sand out of thier shoes. Photo credit: Bastian Defives

Limamou Mbengue, 48 years old, midfielder
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: boxes and boxes of football equipment

Limamou Mbengue,
48 years old, midfielder

They say mine is the saddest story in Spanish football. I was 14 years old when I migrated to Spain in hopes of achieving my dream of becoming a professional footballer. I passed a test and began to train at the football academy of Atletico Madrid, where I stayed for five years, before playing one season in the Spanish second division, and then one season with Athletico Madrid’s first team.

My future was bright. I was playing well and had caught the attention of Real Madrid, who wanted to sign me. When we began putting the deal together, it came to light that someone had falsified my documents, cheating me and the system to pocket some cash. The paper trail claimed that this individual had bought me from a Senegalese club for an enormous amount of money and that they had brought me to Spain from Senegal — when in fact I had migrated on my own and had never seen one cent from this supposed deal. At the moment the scandal came to light, my mother passed away. I had no money to buy a plane ticket and my club at the time refused to pay for the trip. I was put on a black list. There was nothing I could do. I was helpless. The scandal had became a shadow over me. Because of the legal battle, from that moment on, no football club wanted to touch me and my career vanished before my eyes. Even to this day my case has not been resolved.

When I returned to Senegal, no one could understand how I could have been gone for so long, without becoming rich. Despite and perhaps because of the scandal, during my time abroad I developed good relationships with people at the top of Spanish football. They know my story, recognize the injustice, and have helped me to move on. Now, I am the president of Academy Vincente del Bosque here in Dakar, which is supported by the Spanish government. They send me boxes and boxes of Spanish national team uniforms and equipment. Though the academy is new, I believe we can do great things and help many people. Because of my experience, I want to protect young players so that what happened to me will never happen to them. In a way, the most important thing I have now, is my story.

Aliou Sall, 14 years old, defender
charcoal on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: The Koran and soccer shoes

Aliou Sall,
14 years old, defender

I was born in a small village in Senegal. My family sent me to a dara in Dakar when I was young. I was a talibe for some time. One day I was on the street playing with friends running around. Someone stopped me and asked if I had ever played with a proper football. He said that I was very agile and quick. Until that day, I had never thought about football seriously. It was just something that came naturally to me.

Soon after that, I was invited to join Academy Vincente del Bosque. The club president, Limamou Mbengeu, traveled all the way to my village to get permission from my father. Before that I didn’t think about much other than family and religion. Football has given me something else to focus on and has taught me many new lessons, namely, the importance of respecting the other, even if he is your opponent. This is one of the things I love about my favorite player, Marcello. From what I’ve seen, he is always respectful, helping his opponents back to their feet after the play. When I look back, I feel very privileged to be here. This is something I could have never imagined, never dreamed.

Moustapha Djamil Dabo, 12 years old, midfielder
acrylic and graphite on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: rooftop

Moustapha Djamil Dabo,
12 years old, midfielder

I grew up playing soccer on the rooftop with my older brothers and friends. We all imagined becoming super stars. Many of my friends, including my older brother, have tried out for the academy but were not selected.

I am the first one who passed the test and I am proud of that. Everyone is happy for me. Everyone encourages me. I know a lot about football and work hard to make good grades in school. My father and brother have taught me a lot about the technical and mental side. I love to watch football. My favorite player is Isco because of his technical ability and work rate.

Normally I don’t remember my dreams but I have had one dream that I do remember very clearly. In the dream, my brother didn’t want me to play for his team, but on the day of the match, his team was missing one player. He called me to come play and I ended up receiving a pass from him to score the last-second winning goal.

Phillipe Demba Diamanka, 15 years old, defender
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: football

Phillipe Demba Diamanka,
15 years old, defender

I am a defender. I am the captain of my team. I aim to lead by example, both on and off the field. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is play with this football. It never leaves my room.

My grandfather was a marabou. My father is a college principal. My mother is a librarian. My older brother plays professional football in Spain. My sister was also a very good footballer who was presented with contracts to play in Europe though the family decided she should instead join the military. Even if there are times I disagree or don’t understand why, I know I have to respect their decisions: they are my parents.

I feel pressure to succeed in football and in life. My father expects me to be perfect and always respectful. At times he is hard on me but I try to tell myself that it comes from a good place, that it’s for my own good. I will do everything I can to realize my dream of becoming a professional football player, but for me, there is nothing more important than family.

Amadou Ndiaye (Gaucher), 17 years old, attacker
charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: haircut

Amadou Ndiaye (Gaucher),
17 years old, attacker

Ever since my first day at the football academy, I have had this recognizable hairstyle. It makes me feel like a super star! But perhaps I also do it because my father was a hairdresser and I grew up watching him give people stylish cuts. Though he was not a football player, he believed in my talent and was always there for me. He provided me financial support to play and paid my transport. One day I came home from training and was told that my father had died. It was a complete shock. My coach and club president have been very supportive. They have helped me focus and provide structure. My next step is to become professional. I don’t feel the pressure. Instead, I feel motivated and happy when people come up to me on the street or I see my name, jersey, or portrait painted on the wall. When I sleep I only dream about football. It is like an obsession for me. I have been offered different opportunities for work but I always turn them down. I am 100% focused on realizing my dream of playing in the World Cup and to scoring a game-winning goal.

photo credit Bastian Defives

Babacar Tamba Papis, 18 years old, attacker
acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: myself (photo of foot)

Babacar Tamba Papis,
18 years old, attacker

When I was a kid, my dream was to play for the neighborhood team, now I dream farther than that. Because of football, everyone in my neighborhood knows me and shows me respect. This pushes me forward and gives me courage and strength. I like to motivate my teammates. None of us have enough money to go to one of the academies or schools. Despite this, we won the most important tournament in Dakar (Nowetan) anyway.

To be a professional footballer abroad is a dream everyone has. But this is also our achilles heel. Many of us would give everything we have for an opportunity and because of this, there are people who can take advantage of us. In your head you’re asking yourself “am I going to loose everything?” But you have to take your chances, it is God’s will. My older brother gave all his money to an agent who then disappeared. You step back and think “I won’t let this happen to me” and then someone arrives who says they can make it happen for you. Suddenly you’re thinking “well if I don’t take a chance, I’ll never get anywhere.” Of course you’re scared to lose your chance, and in a way, you have no choice. You have to trust somebody.

Moustapha Yatma Diop, 74 years old, goalkeeper/ attacker
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: warm-up suit

Moustapha Yatma Diop,
74 years old, goalkeeper/ attacker

I always wear a football warm up-suit — unless there is a familial event. I even go into important meetings dressed this way. It is my identity. I was a goalkeeper and then became a successful attacking player after I injured my arm.

In 1967 I was studying in France. One day I received a call from the Senegalese ambassador asking me to go back to play for Senegal. I was 22 years old. I played 20 or 30 matches for the Senegal national team in the 1960s. We played a lot in eastern Europe because we had a Marxist coach. I am a Marxist myself. We played a style of football influenced by such ideas: a total football.

I love football because it is a way to mobilize people. In Senegal, 50 years ago, the professional teams seemed to have more people coming to watch their games than they do today. Now, it is the local games between neighborhood teams that have the better atmosphere and attendance, perhaps because there, it is about football more than it is about business.

I might be past the stage in my life for dreaming about football but I’ll never stop questioning. I wonder if the top levels of football today are too much influenced by business, if the sport has lost its civility? If you look at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) the owners, players, and coaches are from all over the world. Is PSG really a french-club, or is it rather, just a club in France? What if tomorrow someone from North Korea wanted to buy Olympic Marseille? Would everyone accept that?

Ibrahima Ndiake Chita, 66 years old, midfielder
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: football and sand

Ibrahima Ndiake Chita,
66 years old, midfielder

I was the captain of the Senegal national team in the 1980s while working full- time as a police officer. My father died when I was 14, leaving behind very little for our family. Despite having talent, I had no time to dream of becoming a professional footballer. I took the responsibility on my shoulders and I went to find a job. I joined the police and played for their football team. In time, I was asked to play for the Senegalese national team and eventually became the captain. Working for the police gave me both security and structure. I am retired now, but every month I go to the bank to take my pension.

I have been all over the world with the Senegal national team for beach soccer. Senegal has won four African Cups and has competed in many Beach Soccer World Cups. For a time I was the coach. Now I am the team’s manager. I have also helped to create a beach soccer championship in Senegal and am involved with the Senegalese Football Federation’s department for Beach Soccer. Senegal has great beach soccer players, in part because we have so many beautiful beaches. Throughout the country, at sundown you can find people playing football on the beach. It has become a deep part of our culture, part of the landscape.

When I watch football, I can see if a player has gone to school. Many young players come to me for help with their career and I tell them the first thing they need to do is to commit to their education. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have an education it is meaningless. Not only because you won’t be able to understand what your coach wants you to do, but also because you must prepare yourself for life after football.

Ndeye Marieke Thiombane, 26 years old, defender
acrylic on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: jersey #12

Ndeye Marieke Thiombane,
26 years old, defender

I am a Senegalese female athlete. Franky speaking, here in Senegal no one likes that girls play football. Here the family is sacred — if they are against something, you have no choice but to do what they say. Luckily, I was born into a sportive family where it was never a problem for me to play sports.

Football is my first passion but I also play rugby. During my BAC (high school final exams) I was preselected to train with the Senegalese national football team but was unable to train with them and go to class at the same time. Fortunately, the rugby training sessions were in the evenings, so I was able to continue playing with the national team. With rugby, the national team plays in tournaments abroad every year and I have been fortunate to live these experiences.

Now I am the captain of DSC (Dakar Sacre Coeur) woman’s team. I am like a mother — it is like having another family. We share and listen to each other’s problems. I am always there for them. Being the captain for DSC gives me a certain level of notoriety. Before this, I didn’t know that I was a leader.

I have always worn the number 12. It was the number of my best friend growing up. Her name was Ndeye. She pushed me to become a better footballer and taught me everything she knew. To me she was like a big sister whom I admired a lot. She was everything for me. She died suddenly when I was just 14 years old. Ever since then I wear number 12 in her memory. She is always with me on the pitch. It’s like I am continuing along her path.

My dream is to continue playing sport in another country, learn new things, and reach higher and higher levels of competition.

Khalilou Fadiga, 43 years old, midfielder
charcoal on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018

object: picture from awards ceremony with Fernando Hierro and Zinedine Zidane

Khalilou Fadiga,
43 years old, midfielder

I was born in Senegal but at the age of 7, I moved with my family to live in France. I was 8 years old the first time I went to see a soccer match at the Parc des Princes in Paris. From that day on, I told myself that I would be a professional football player. I was 10 years old when I made a test for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). There were many kids, but I somehow made the selection. The first big step of my career.

Life in Paris was difficult. My father was a garbage man and my mother worked as a cleaning lady at the Tati store in Barbes. I grew up suffering to see my parents wake up so early in the morning and struggle to make a living. Even though I was passionate about football, l studied hard in school and graduated the BAC (high school final exams).

When I became a professional at the age of 18, my first target was buying a house for my parents. My second target was to sign for a top team in Europe by the age of 20. After playing for various clubs in France and Belgium, in 2003 I reached that goal, signing a four-year contract with Inter Milan. I played in exhibition matches that summer, but during a physical test with the team doctor before the upcoming season, it was discovered that I had a heart problem that would not allow me to play for the club. It was a difficult moment in my life and a real test of my morale. But when I fall down, I come back stronger. I believe that when you do good, you get good. I changed clubs and continued my career.

Now I have a position within FIFA and am the youngest member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for technique and development. At the same time, I run a trading company that works with rice, corn, and sugar. For the past seven years have been an ambassador for the President of Senegal. I was good at school. You need to think that your life is longer than your football career…

What I have learned from football: believe in yourself. Sometimes you meet a coach that says no to you, but you can’t let that stop you. Life is about believing in yourself, no matter what people say. If people say you can’t do something, work even harder to prove them wrong.

Khalilou Fadiga, 43 years old, midfielder
charcoal on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2018