We met on August 3rd, 2018. I arrived in Bamako during the night to start the preparation for the African Under-18 Cup with the national team of Mali. At the moment we didn’t have the right to choose rooms or roomates. Anyway I didn’t know any player among the 16 preselected by the coach. Mubarak is one year younger than me and the coach choose intentionally to place me in the same room with Mubarak. Later i found out that he had hos own reasons. ”He is a young man, full of potential but he can get easily influenced. I want you to take care of him and be aware that he has to remain focused during the preparation" he told me.
I, thus, discovered this young player evolving in Mali. I was born in France and I always lived in France where the culture is different, but we immediately understood each other very well. He taught me words of the local lingo, Bambara (Malian language), and we had plenty of discussions. We used to talk about everything, but mainly about basketball. We also compared the culture of the countries we were living in and we talked a lot about France. It must be known that, like all players playing in Mali, Mubarak was dreaming a lot. And he still does. He is dreaming of going on abroad to play, especially in France! He asked me lots of questions about the level of basketball there, the style of basketball etc. Actually, we became real friends, we spent our free time watching movies, laughing and dancing in our room. At the end of the preparation camp which lasted for 3 weeks, we were both selected to participate with Mali, in the Africa Cup. And what an Africa Cup was this one for us, really… Winning an African Cup, in your own pleace, in front of your audience was really something special unique. A moment when the time stopped in our souls!
We, me and Mubarak, then became brothers. But despite his very good performance during the Africa Cup, Mubarak, unfortunately didn’t get an offer from a club outside Mali. I had to return to France. He stayed. In Mali.
It's very difficult for me not to feel guilty, knowing, seeing the living conditions in France and generally in Europe, that we are privileged of. It’s very difficult not to think of him and all the other players who ain’t so lucky
But let me tell you something. Despite poverty, despite the hard living conditions in Mali, I have never, ever, heard Mubarak complaining about something. I can assure you that in France we complain more, than people in Mali does...
After all, we stayed in touch. Mubarak was working extremely hard, having in mind that he wants to accosmplish his ultimate goal. He wanted, no matter what, to make the team of Mali for the U-19 World Cup in Greece.
It was almost a year after, when I returned back to Bamako, on May 29, 2019. This time for the preparation camp before the famous World Cup. I was happy because, after all, i found my brother again and, guess what, we shared the same room for one more time.
Our common life was back on track, we found again our beloved habits, the thinks that we loved to do together. And, obviously, we talked a lot about what our last year’s accomplishment. Now it was to pass the floor to our hopes, which, now had a universal face. We were dreaming of marking the history of global basketball together.
Mubarak’s progression was immense. He shoots the ball perfectly from the arc and his percentages were excellent in preparation. Come on, he was heading straight to the World Cup. He was almost there. But 10 days before we take off, Mubarak suffered a bad knee injury...
The doctors gave him three days off. After that, he get back on practice, limping, one week before our departure. He was therem trying, sweating, hoping, despite the pain he was clinging.
Let me do a break over there. It's important to understand that basketball is a way out for him, a way out of his life, a way to somewhere, where he will be able to help his family. He was really facing the World Cup challenge as a stepping stone to make his dream come true. The dream which brings him in France.
You know what he was doing? When everybody else was sleeping, he decided to add a shooting session of personal practice at 5 o’clock in the morning, in addition to our two daily practices. When I got up, at 7 am to have some breakfast, he was already at the breakfast room... I've witnessed him making everything he could, to try to recover. He did a lot. He put so much effort.
But, after a while, the medical verdict came, Mubarak could not participate in the competition. I can’t explain now his feelings. The only i can say is that you had to be with him, so you would be able to understand. His world collapsed, his dreams flew away and reality has brutally caught up. I struggled a lot to accept the news, I couldn’t believe his destiny. He deserved more than anyone to be there, to be with us, to be in the World Cup! But he is not! His story affected me a lot. Despite the fact that he wouldn’t be able to participate, he stayed with the team till the very last moment, until we took off.
His mental strength, his team spirit and his devotion to basketball inspires me every day. Every day, every minute i play here in Crete, i do it in the name of Mubarak. In his honor. Mubarak is on the floor with us, in our thoughts, even though he is actually not. For me there is no sense of fatigue, i don’t deserve to feel that i need to rest, even for one second. You know why? Because I know that him, he would have died on the floor for the team if it was necessary.
This is also why I know that he will come out of this injustice. I know that Mubarak will fulfill his dream.
For you my brother…