Monaco winger Keita Balde speaks exclusively to Sky Sports News' Paul Gilmour about playing in the Premier League one day, Sadio Mane and using his platform for good
Friday 19 June 2020 10:59, UK
Monaco winger Keita Balde says he would love the challenge of playing in the Premier League someday and has spoken of his pride at seeing Senegal team-mate Sadio Mane win multiple trophies at Liverpool.
In an exclusive Q&A with Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour, Balde begins by explaining why, like Marcus Rashford, he's using his platform for good.
You made an incredible gesture to pay for accommodation for 80 workers during lockdown. How did that happen?
First of all it's important to underline that it's not about me. It's about doing the right things. It happened in a very spontaneous way. I saw a video on social media of these workers from Senegal sleeping on the road, near to my hometown in Barcelona, Catalunya.
I don't cry very often in my life, but this time I shed some tears. It was then I decided to take action personally, to help them and solve the problem. I needed to do the right thing.
Why was it so important to you?
My family educated me with good values and principles. What happened in Lleida is not something new, honestly. It's sad but it happens everywhere, in Spain, in the UK, in Italy, in France.
I needed to do something and bring a positive message, give the example that all of you can do good. Small or big, it's not important.
We can do something to make other people's life better. Words are not enough, campaigns on social media are not enough. We need to take action and solve the problems doing something good.
Is it correct that not all hotels would accept the workers at first? You overcame this but how big a challenge was it?
Yes, it's true. In the beginning it seemed easier, but something had to be done. Problems are part of our life, the best approach is to focus on finding and providing the solutions. And that's what we did with my people in Spain. The workers are happy, we are happy.
In England we have seen Marcus Rashford use his position to do positive things. You have acted in this way. Is this the best side of footballers?
What's really important is the message and not the messenger. We football players have the privilege to speak to millions of people so we need to take the responsibility of our social role as sportsmen and sportswomen to educate and give positive messages.
I've been in contact with many of my friends and colleagues: Koulibaly, Sadio Mane and others. They are all very open to doing something. Football is a big family.
What was it like to see Premier League players take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter?
It was a good message. A sign that you can educate people and share some positive values.
What is your own personal experience of racism in your career and what can be done to overcome this problem in society?
I think it's not about football but rather everyday life. I didn't suffer this issue on the pitch but I've been close to some colleagues of mine such as Koulibaly who had bad experiences. It all starts from education and values.
Our job allows us to speak louder than others so we need to raise our voice and share messages of equality, respect and unity.
Your international team-mate Sadio Mane will soon be a Premier League champion. Can you see him becoming a Liverpool legend?
It's a big achievement for a Senegal player but we cannot forget he is already a Champions League winner and the best African player of 2019. He is an amazing guy. We are close friends and I'm very proud of him. He is in the history of Liverpool so it's not difficult for him to become a legend.
Would you like to play in the Premier League one day?
I was born in Spain and grew up in Barcelona but I have never played in La Liga. I became a football player and a man in Serie A with Lazio and then I moved to Monaco and played in Ligue 1. I like experiencing new places and facing new challenges.
Of course the Premier League and La Liga are great challenges for every ambitious player. Now I want to enjoy next season with Monaco and improve myself.
How do you feel about football returning in England, Germany and Spain when it was cancelled in France?
It was a bit strange to see everyone coming back to play. In France we are going to start a new pre-season next week so there's not much time to think about that. The only thing I can say now is I'm very happy football is coming back because it means that life is coming back too.
What are your plans for next season?
I will be focused on my team and approaching the new season with a good mentality and reaching my best level. I'm 25, I'm a father now and I've matured as a man and as a player. It's time to step up and make the difference again.