Oumar Niasse interview: Football is not important for countries with water insecurity

Oumar Niasse spent four years at Everton after joining from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2016 (Getty Images)
Oumar Niasse spent four years at Everton after joining from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2016 (Getty Images)

Former Everton striker Oumar Niasse was reflecting on a remarkable journey from struggling to source water as a child to speaking at Parliament as a former Premier League star.

The 33-year-old, who made top-flight appearances in Senegal, Norway, Turkey, Russia, eventually got his big £13.5million Premier League move, to Everton, in 2016.

It’s a far cry from having to walk for 20 minutes every day as an 11-year-old to fetch his family water.

It’s inconceivable for Niasse, who is a free agent again after leaving non-league Macclesfield in January, that he could be in a position talking to politicians about his journey in Westminster.

“Football got me here. My father, who passed away a while ago, would be shocked to see me talking at Parliament,” Niasse tells Standard Sport.

“It’s all because of football. It’s big money for this country, which is big all around the world, but at the same time football is not important for countries at war or with water insecurity.”

Niasse is helping to launch Football for Peace’s new 10-year campaign to use football to discuss water scarcity, with tensions expected to increase in the coming years due to the climate crisis.

He is an active member of the campaign and told how his family struggled in the underdeveloped Ouakam area on the outskirts of Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

“When my mum moved to a new area and the population was growing, we didn’t have water in our home,” he says. “We lived just outside the city, it was overpopulated and the government hadn’t developed that access to water.

“We struggled without water and I lived in a place with 200 houses and had to go to the well, pump it. I was quite fit because of my football so it was good exercise.

“I saw it as my gym session, I used to help people around the neighbourhood.  It hurts your hand after and you carry this heavy bottle back to your house.

“It started when I was 11-ish, something like that, yes. It toughened me up, I was that guy who did this kind of thing to build fitness while playing my football.”

Niasse, who has nine caps for Senegal, now lives in Manchester in a comfortable lifestyle enjoyed by most footballers. “I understand how much of an achievement it was to go from this to the Premier League,” he adds.

“With the money I earned, I bought a jacuzzi but in her eyes, my mother thinks I am wasting water with this. I can see where she is coming from after going to the well to get water to just shower and drink.”

Niasse would be within his rights to see his lifestyle, his position as an ambassador and his career in football as success, but admits: “I know I have done better with my career.

With the money I earned, I bought a jacuzzi but in her eyes, my mother thinks I am wasting water

Oumar Niasse

“It had moments where it didn’t go well, I had my situation with Ronald Koeman [at Everton], which affected my career. Maybe I could have picked some better loan moves. It impacted how my career turned out.”

Niasse adds: “I can’t complain as I have worked with Carlo Ancelotti, Marco Silva and Sam Allardyce. I scored my first Premier League goal against Liverpool in a 2-0 win. It was a good highlight for me.

“I learned a lot about football at Everton. Even when I was dropped into the Under-23s because of the manager, I trained and played with Anthony Gordon and Jarrad Branthwaite, and I am not surprised they are where they are today.”

Niasse is keen to find his next club after helping out Macclesfield when called upon while continuing his work with Football For Peace. “I keep fit and I am seeing if there are opportunities but I am not under pressure to find something. I am willing to go abroad if need be.”