Foot Market: After the United Arab Emirates and Iran, you played this season at Al-Gharafa in Qatar. How did you get there?
Check Diabate: Andrea Stramaccioni called me to ask if I wanted to come and play with Al-Gharafa. So I accepted because he was a coach I knew well. He trained me when I was in Iran. After he left, I stayed there for a year. When I finished my second season, he signed at the same time as Al-Gharafa. He called me to play there and that’s how I ended up in Qatar.
FM: what did you discover there?
CD: I had already had the opportunity to play in Dubai, so I already knew that league. The difference wasn’t huge. After that, the most important thing, all I liked was being able to understand other mentalities, other cultures. I realized that by traveling you learn many things. Outside of football, these are things that also interested me. For example, I discovered Iranian culture and Qatari culture. So this means that today I can understand how Iranians and Qataris work, how they are and how they see life. So these are enriching things for me as a man.
FM: On the pitch you have scored 19 goals this season. We can say that individually your balance is good.
CD: Yes it is sure. I think I’ve had a great season. It was my goal. When I play football, I have one thing in mind, I want to go out of my way to thank the people who made me come. So my goal was to do everything possible to help the team. I am happy because I honestly had a good year. It went well. I had fun on the pitch, I scored a lot. It was very good.
FM: Al-Gharafa can also thank you for scoring so many goals. Overall, what is your vision for the season? Have you achieved your goals?
CD: we finished fifth in the standings. After that it is true that we could have finished in fourth place. This year we could not do better against the teams that preceded us, AL-Sadd, Al-Duhail, Al-Wakrah and Al-Arabi. We did our best to be fifth. We were also in the Qatari Cup final, but we lost. Overall, we had a good season. Afterward, we can always do better and try to find something more.
FM: You’re 34 and you find your way to the nets in every club you go to. What’s your secret to remaining a fearsome and constant scorer?
CD: (laughs) yes, that’s right! The secret is work. Scoring goals is very difficult. But this is one of the things that is easier for me because I have always played as a striker. You learn a lot over time. There is also experience. We know how to get in front of the door, how to hit, when to hit, when to play a touch. All these are things that help us a lot to score in front of goal.
A player looking for respect and recognition
FM: When you look back, what do you think about your career?
CD: honestly, i’d say i’ve had a good career. Each person has the mentality of hers. I am a person who has always loved football. Basically, I started playing football because I love the sport. By dint of playing, wherever I go my goal is to have respect. I tell myself that to have it you have to be good on the pitch. So wherever I went, I did everything I could. I got what I wanted in football today, respect, fun on the pitch, recognition and love. I like to feel surrounded by people who like me. That’s how I feel good. So far, everything is going well. When I do good things, I know people will be grateful. These are things that strike me a lot.
FM: What are your best? And the most difficult?
CD: I have many good memories, but the best is when we won the Coupe de France with Bordeaux. I often think and think back to that moment, when we won the final, when I scored a brace. That day, I saw how happy the fans were. I was very happy because I told myself that my goal of bringing something to Bordeaux had been achieved. All together we brought something to the club. My worst memory, I think, is the loss in the Qatar Cup final this season (5-3 defeat to Al-Wakrah, ed).
FM: Listening to you, we truly feel that this recognition is essential, indeed vital for you.
CD: it is safe and certain. That’s how I see things. When I join a team, the first thing I tell myself is that you have to feel my presence, to know that I am there. I know I can’t do everything, but I have to bring something. So I tell myself that if I play well, if I do things well, people will be happy and congratulate me for what I do on the pitch. I need this.
FM: Do you still want to keep playing?
CD: Yes of course. I have to play. I tell you this because I am in a moment of my life when, if I spend three or four days without playing, I miss football and have to go and touch the ball. There too we are on vacation and every now and then I take the ball to go to a field near my house. I go, play. It’s something I really like. As long as I can play, why not continue.
Diabaté opens the doors to France
FM: Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he feared he would feel a huge void the day he stopped his career. You understand it?
CD: I tell myself, as long as I can and still have the desire, I will continue to play football. To play football, you have to love football and want it because it requires a lot of sacrifices. You have to train every day and make the effort in training. These are things that will allow us to be good on game days. A match is not prepared on D-Day but before. You have to want to accept all of this, all of these efforts to prepare for the game. It’s something I really enjoy doing. During my stay at Bordeaux, when I was in the CFA, I told myself that the other players who were at the center with me or in the team were like my brothers. I grew up in a big family. So that’s something I need. I know that in football I will find this kind of thing. In the locker room, I consider my teammates as my brothers. I feel good when I’m in a group, when there are people and I’m surrounded by friends, teammates, people I like. These are things I like about football.
FM: What do you plan to do next year?
CD: all i can say is i want to play soccer. Why not in France. I always wanted, whatever happens, to go back to France. Before leaving L1 I told myself that I had started my career in France, that I had had the opportunity to leave France. I don’t even want to finish my career outside of France. I have to get back here. So whatever happens, all I want at some point is to go back to France. After, for the moment, I can say that there could be other proposals, other possibilities. But it’s true that I miss playing in France a bit.
FM: Have you had any offers or touches in France?
CD: for now, not yet. Can’t say I’ve received any offers yet. No.
FM: What can you bring to a Ligue 1 club today?
CD: Experience, that’s for sure. He also scores goals. One thing is certain, the networks will tremble. Must, must tremble (smiles). When they score, I often hear a noise when I see the net shake. It is an incredible moment. It is inexplicable. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Even in training, when I laugh and then score, I feel that something is happening inside of me. When I hear the fans screaming when I score in a match, it’s incredible. I have a lot to give. I can bring to a group. In the locker room certain things can happen. There are days when there can be tensions in training and when I see him I try to intervene to make people understand that you have to be united to move forward. I try to take everything I can to a locker room because that’s where it starts. We need to be able to accept each other, tell each other things and encourage each other on and off the pitch. As long as we get along well off the pitch, it shows on the pitch. I go out of my way to have a good group of friends.
He is ready to help Bordeaux and Metz
FM: You could have done a great serve for Metz and Bordeaux, two of your former teams who are moving down to L2. What do you think of what happened to the Girondins?
CD: for Bordeaux as well as for Metz, it didn’t make me happy. I really like Bordeaux. That’s where I started. I was at the training center, I signed my first professional contract with the Girondins. I also really like Metz. So when I saw the rankings, for one as for the other, I hoped they were able to hold on. But one thing I know is that the two teams will soon find a solution to return to Ligue 1.
FM: If they called you to help them, would you go there?
CD: I can’t say I won’t listen if these clubs ever call me. I can’t even tell them no, be it Bordeaux or Metz. But we just have to agree. Honestly, if I can help Bordeaux or Metz, or other clubs, I will. Although I really like these clubs and Ajaccio too, since I played them in L2, but I am still a player. If I have the opportunity to play football with a team, no matter what, I accept with great pleasure.
FM: Have you thought about your post-career? Does coaching appeal to you?
CD: to be honest, I didn’t decide to graduate. But I want to tell you why not, it might be a good idea. I am in a period where I want to stay in football. I wonder if I can live without football. I really like football (laughs). So I’m wondering if I can enjoy doing something else outside of football. Whatever happens, I think I will stay close to this medium. I tell myself it’s time to make a decision, to know if I pass my coaching diploma. And that doesn’t mean I’ll become a coach. But from the moment I graduate, you never know. Today I am more focused on the pitch and on the game and I must admit that I already miss playing (laughs).