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Pape Matar Sarr extended interview: “I believe that I’ve made good progress in every aspect”

Wed 01 March 2023, 15:50|Tottenham Hotspur

Pape Matar Sarr has opened up on his first few months at Spurs – revealing how some early work in the gym is beginning to pay off for him.

Signed from Metz in the summer of 2021, the young Senegal international remained with the French side on loan for the duration of the last campaign before reporting in to Hotspur Way for the first time at the start of pre-season in July.

Part of the Senegal squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in February, 2022, Pape was named Men’s Young Player of the Year at the 2022 Confederation of African Football (CAF) awards before rounding off the calendar year by playing on the biggest stage of all – the World Cup in Qatar.

Still only 20 years of age, Pape made his Spurs debut on the first day of 2023 and has proved to be an important member of the squad.

In his first full interview with us, first seen in part during Sunday’s edition of N17 Live – our exclusive pre-match show from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Pape has been speaking about his experiences so far and how he prepared himself for joining up with us...

You’ve been here for a while now, Pape – how do you feel about being part of this football club?
Pape: “Tottenham is a club that I’ve been following now for around the last four or five years. In particular I’ve followed the progress of Sonny and Harry Kane, but there are other great players here too. And now I’m here and wearing the shirt right now, it’s a real source of motivation for me, and it allows me to work hard in training every day. It’s a great team we have and being totally honest with you, it’s a real pleasure for me to be here. As soon as I’d signed for the club I then stayed on at Metz, but I made sure I followed Tottenham’s progress very closely. I even observed the training sessions, I had a look at the city a bit also, the supporters after the matches, the players and how they did things, so I was already preparing myself for what was ahead of me here. I really like the city and the fans – they’re great with me. The set-up, facilities and all the staff here are really welcoming and I’m so happy to be here.”

Tell us about your season so far and your development as a player...
Pape: “I believe that I’ve made good progress in every aspect, because training is really good here and the coaching staff have also worked particularly closely with me. They put together a training programme for me and supported me as I did quite a bit of work in the gym, something I hadn’t done too much of when I was in France. I’ve come on a lot also in the tactical side of my game and so, yes, all this has been of great benefit to me. Spending my first six months here without playing was honestly very tough for me, but with the help of my family and friends and the backroom staff and my team-mates as well, I managed to get through that period. I never let up for a minute and I always believed in myself. I kept telling myself all the time that I was working well in training, even if I wasn’t getting a game, and that one day it would all pay dividends for me. And yes, I’ve started to play and I’m making the most of my opportunity. I’m happy and I’ll continue to work and train hard.”

I did quite a bit of work in the gym, something I hadn’t done too much of when I was in France.

Pape Matar Sarr

You were born in Thiaroye, Senegal. Tell us about your early days back at home and your journey to becoming a professional footballer...
Pape: “I was born into a family where almost everyone played football, so I was born with football really in my blood! I started out playing football from a very young age, just a kid really. I began playing in the district where I lived. We had a football team from our family alone! I played every day, all the time without affecting my studies too much. I always believed that one day I’d make it and get my reward. It’s what I’d always dreamt of and today my family and friends are honestly very proud of me.”

After a couple of appearances for our Under-21s during the first half of the season and then going away to represent Senegal at the World Cup, you made your Spurs debut on New Year’s Day against Aston Villa. What was that like?
Pape: “Playing in the World Cup helped me to grow as a footballer. It was an experience that I really enjoyed. Representing your country and your people in a tournament like that is a real source of pride for me.

“I was really happy after making my Spurs debut, in spite of the fact that we lost the game against Aston Villa. I felt quite proud because I told myself that right now, all that hard work I’d put in over those six or seven months had started to come to fruition. Now it’s all about continuing to work hard in order to earn as much playing time as I can between now and the end of the season.”

Along with Oliver Skipp, you recently earned praise for your performance against AC Milan. How did it feel to start a huge Champions League game like that?
Pape: “I started off that game full of emotion and feeling positive. We all knew that it wouldn’t be easy because Milan are a great team, but it was a game of football at the end of the day, like any other. We played well in spite of the result not quite going for us on the night, but it gave us the chance to learn and grow as a result, and to go on to work even harder. I’d dreamed about playing in these kinds of games. We played the game and ended up losing, but we are hoping to overturn that result in the return leg as there are of course two legs at this stage of the competition. We’ve just played the first half and we still have the second half to play on our home turf. We hope that we’re going to win it so we can get through to the next round.”

Your full debut arrived in the FA Cup against Portsmouth...
Pape: “It’s a different competition to the Premier League, but I prepare for all my games in the same way. My first start was against a team from the third division, but they were a good side and we approached that game just like we do a league game. I was in the starting line-up and I think that the team played well that day, we put in a good performance and went on to win."