Burkina Faso – Africa’s next high flyer?

Photo: Bayer Levekusen official Twitter account

By: Zoff from African Insider

When you think of the future of African football, you think of individuals, such as Youcef Atal or Ismaïla Sarr. You might also have an idea of a few national sides that could do well in the future, such as Algeria, Senegal, and Nigeria. You could think commercially, such as increased finances or TV deals for the clubs.

But one thing I see few outside Africa mention is the benumbed potential of Burkina Faso.

It All Starts Chez Burkina

The local league in Burkina Faso is an intriguing one, and despite the lower cumulative ability of the players, it remains one that I endorse and speak proudly of. It is nowhere near the levels of South Africa’s PSL, Morocco’s Botola or Egypt’s Premier League, there is no doubt. 

They are well-established leagues that guarantee high wages, a stable political atmosphere, and what some African players consider the golden ticket to Europe; the reliable ability to be watched by scouts.

Burkina Faso cannot make the same covenant with those playing there. Empty stadiums, poor quality broadcasts, and less-than-adequate national interest in the domestic league should make it near-impossible for anyone to make it at a high level.

Yet, the league has according to Kiniscore produced at least 114 professional footballers currently playing abroad. Compare that to Egypt (61), Morocco (108), South Africa (68), and Tunisia (79), and you’ve got a league with less exposure, overall ability, and financial resources having a larger global footprint than the African behemoths.

So how did this happen? 

One could argue the lack of appeal in the domestic league drives players to leave – but that’s the same with most leagues in Africa. No matter how much is thrown at you, nine times out of ten a player will choose the path to Europe en lieu of a quick financial gain – the chance to represent your country exponentially increases the moment the player lands a deal in Europe. Whether it’s FK Ventspils in Latvia or FC Barcelona, playing abroad is almost a guaranteed ticket to the national team.

But, I digress. Fasofoot D1, whether by design or by complete chance, have developed an insular footballing landscape similar to what is seen in European football. The tactical setup of teams, physicality, and even the self-professionalism of players makes this league a pseudo-enclave of European football. 

Mohamedi Bagué speaking at a press conference. Photo credit: LeFaso.Net

The managers are also not afraid to attempt new tactics, with Salitas FC manager Mohamedi Bagué calmly telling A local paper after a loss that:

”We made a plan and it didn’t work. We played a higher line to try and force the opposition to lose possession. Unfortunately, we didn’t score, but the players tried their best, and won’t hesitate to try again”.

This sandbox approach to the game, a lack of fear when experimenting with tactics, makes the managers much more open, and willing, to take risks and employ new tactics. This is either three things; a very lucky coincidence, an admiration for Europe, or a deliberate attempt by clubs to make their players sell better abroad for financial gain from transfers.

It has paid off too – players are moving and for big sums. Nathanio Komaoré recently moved to Anderlecht for €300,000. Cedric Badolo moved to the Slovak league on an undisclosed fee, Tapsoba quite famously to Lexioes. Sooner or later they will rival private academies in the West Africa region.

The Current Guard

While there is certainly a golden generation ahead for Burkina Faso, one thing people omit is who comes before – players are gradually brought into a national team rather than replacing established selectioneers.

The nation is already strong in Africa, with some of its best players already at the pinnacle of the continent.

Eric Traore, only 24, is already a star at super-rich club Pyramids FC, being an outside the box signing to complement their Brazillian stars. He hasn’t played much in the league, but is clinical on a continental scale, with 8 G/A in 9 games. He’s already attracting interest from both the Middle East and France.

Alain Traoré at RS Berkane is also another veteran, albeit much older at 31. Injuries and fitness have plagued him in recent times, but he still has an impressive 13 G/A in less than 15 starts for the Moroccan outfit. The experience he can give to younger players is immense and will be required to help guide this team in the right direction. Having 48 caps is nothing to scoff at either.

There are plenty more who can offer similar experiences. A multi-layered team must be implemented at first to gradually ensure that Burkina Faso’s gleaming youngsters will master international football.

European Nights

Of course, the next stage for the golden generation is Europe. While I have previously discussed this as being a cheap way to guarantee a seat on the plane to AFCON, the real talent has to be moving to either a top 5 league or one of the 4 ”lower” leagues with great TV coverage – Russia, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland.

An influx of Burkinabé nationals and internationals in these leagues will ensure a larger footprint and national pool for Burkina Faso, and we can already see this in the motion.

Young players such as the infamous Tapsoba, Bertrand Traoré, and Lassina Traoré (Ajax) are already portrayed as top talents by the media and football fans alike, increasing the standing of Burkinabé football in Europe. The mere fact that Tapsoba mentioned Salitas on social media has probably encouraged scouts to start looking in that direction for new recruits.

Burkina Faso was also a former French colony – much like how Algeria and Morocco have benefitted from having French diaspora play for them, players of Burkinabé heritage may also attempt to play for the Burkinabé national team. 

It’s a win-win because the national team manager will have an increased pool, and the fact they prefer domestic talent over diaspora means it will not impede the growth of local football.

Local Perception

In the midst of all this excitement for the golden generation, one thing that must be attested to is how this is perceived by those in Ouagadougou and the rest of the country.

I spoke with Ablam Gnamesso, Sportdrome editor and CAF’s Burkina correspondent, on what he thought of Burkinabé footballing exports shifting from North Africa to Europe:

– This is a good thing. It reassures that Burkinabè football is evolving in its own way. Imagine that at the start of the season, Burkina had only two players playing in the five major championships, Bertrand Traoré and Bryan Dabo. Every weekend, we get to follow every new player that joins. But with these young people on the rise, we seem to forget the others and concentrate on our young people, says Gnamesso to African Insider and Football Elements.

On who inspires national pride:

– Edmond Tapsoba (Bayer Leverkusen), Lassina Traoré who joined Ajax Amsterdam’s A team, Hassane Bandé, Abdoul Fessal Tapsoba, and others make their young brothers dream in Faso and it is an honor to follow them every weekend.

On Salitas and the Burkinabé League becoming a new European hotspot:

– They know where they are going and how to get there. This is also the strength of grassroots training. Instilling in them, the elements of success.

These quotes here from one of Burkina Faso’s finest journalists show how much of an emphasis the local football, as well as the European dream, is towards carving the future of the league.

Tactical Analysis

The Fasofoot D1 is a league I enjoy watching for multiple reasons but few footage is available online. Here, I’ll try to give a short breakdown of tactics used in a match in the 2019/20 season between AS Tema and Rahimo.

The defending system used by AS Téma Bokin in Burkina Faso. The manager says he likes to employ a blend of ”Naglesmann’s half-press” and ”Klopp’s direct gegenpressing”, based off situation. The players who are in the immediate vicinity will intercept, while the others create half-spaces, subliminally forcing Rahimo FC into passing where they want them to pass. A clever system that lead to a slim 1-0 victory.

A similar move, slightly earlier. They left a large space for them to pass into due to the left-back (not pictured) being able to intercept and slow down or stop the move, something they did not anticipate. This counter-defending lead to a goal for AS Téma.

There’s not much footage that I can provide, otherwise I would delve into in further.

Performances of the Youth

One question that always arises is, ”how are the youth team?” And to that, I will answer – they are quite good.

Players that stick out for me in that team are Eliass Diama, Ali Ouedraogo, and Djbril Outtara, who is also performing well in the Botola. The U20 national team is good in the African circuit but unfortunately hasn’t been able to prove themselves at a youth world cup.

While not as talented currently as the young Senegal, Mali, or Angolan teams, the players in the Faso team will develop into well-rounded great players that as a team will be better than the individual talent of certain players.


Burkina Faso has many benefits as a footballing nation – saplid (foundations to grow), innovation, and talent, which is needed for all nations that do not have the financial muscles.

Whether it is in improved CAFCL performances from clubs, an AFCON, or even a shot at world cup glory, this Burkina Faso team can fly high as one of Africa’s future stars.

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