Tuesday, May 18

“Unreal potential”: Sima’s rapid rise from farmland practice to draw with Arsenal | Slavia Prague

TOAt the end of a harsh winter in southern Bohemia, the upper echelons of European football could hardly have seemed further away. Abdallah Sima was 18 years old when he arrived at FC Taborsko, then in the third division of the Czech Republic, shortly before Covid-19 stopped playing. Housed in a rural apartment, there was little to do except train: so Sima’s first two months were spent on a flat patch of land, flanked by piles of cut wood, kicking balls between cones with the former soccer coach who was owner of his house. accommodation.

However, on Thursday night, Sima will perform at the Emirates Stadium as one of the most esteemed young forwards. When Slavia Prague pulled him out of Taborsko last July, he had yet to play a competitive match and the play was seen as a punt: Sima would start in team B of the Czech champions and sink or swim from there, although his advisers did not they were shy. by telling the hierarchy of the Slavia he wouldn’t need such a significant adaptation spell.

They were right. In September, Sima was making late appearances off the bench for Jindrich Trpisovsky’s impressive team; in November he was scoring a crucial goal in the Europa League against Nice in his first start; and on February 25 he was on target for the 15th time this season with a low rake against Leicester that confirmed Slavia’s surprise win in the last 32.

“His potential is unreal,” Trpisovsky said after watching Sima score against Opava five months ago. “Will trigger. I’m not even afraid of it breaking down. “It was an extraordinary journey for Sima, who played local football in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, until he was 17. French club Thonon Évian saw him playing for the academy at FC Amateur Medina, but there was little to suggest.At that point I’d burn such a quick trail to the top.

Many African footballers succeed in Europe; many fail and are discarded in backwaters. Sima’s forced break into the farmland around Tabor did not bode well abroad, but its trajectory has been carefully planned. Évian, who briefly burned in Ligue 1 but now moves into the lower leagues in France, sees himself as a school of completion and worked closely with Daniel Chrysostome, Sima’s agent. Chrysostome had long identified the Czech Republic as a place where promising young African players could offer something different at the top tier, rather than risk getting stuck in the French system. He believed that Sima could move forward and Taborsko, who had already sold another of his clients, Cheick Conde, to the high-level club Fastav Zlin, was happy to seize the opportunity.

Abdallah Sima scores against Hapoel Be'er Sheva in a Europa League group stage match this season.
Abdallah Sima scores against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a Europa League group stage match this season. Photograph: Martin Divíšek / EPA

Slavia scouts first took notice of Sima when he raced across the pitch to score a solo goal against Viktoria Zizkov in a post-block friendly. He then scored two goals in a similar match against Slavia B and the transfer discussions quickly gained momentum. When he left, Sima had only spent six months in Taborsko.

Those with a close interest in Slavia wonder, like Trpisovsky, how far Sima can go. He has directly joined a team that is undefeated at the national level in 13 months and has become one of the most interesting and dynamic teams in Europe. Sima can play across the front line and has most commonly been deployed on the right wing – his intelligence in pressure has drawn attention internally, but his range of shots excites spectators more. At 6ft 2in, with a prodigiously timed jump, he poses an aerial threat, but his ability to find space, spot opportunities and convert them is the attribute that those around him believe will lead to rapid progress in the Czech league.

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“We know the offers for the summer,” Slavia president Jaroslav Tvrdik told Czech media recently, and there are suggestions that the club could seek around £ 25 million. It is understood that Premier League clubs are paying close attention; West Ham, who have already successfully signed two Slavia players in Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, have been linked, but the Europa League quarter-finals can also be a good time for Arsenal, who need to negotiate smartly. in the coming months and could Undoubtedly use a versatile young striker, to look closely.

To the delight of his large family in Dakar, Sima won his first two matches for Senegal in the recent international break. It has been a meteoric rise and while transfer speculation will reach a fever pitch if it adds to Mikel Arteta’s headaches, there is a recognition that Slavia is a good home. They have developed and sold well in recent years, the West Ham Soucek being the most prominent example, and under Trpisovsky they have become a vibrant and compelling presence on the continental stage.

“It would definitely be better for him to stay here,” Trpisovsky said in December. Slavia may ultimately receive an offer that they cannot refuse; For now, they hope that Sima can help them in their second semi-final appearance in Europe and, in the process, make those weeks of work in the field seem like an increasingly distant memory.


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