Name: Didier Ibrahim N’Dong
Club: CS Sfaxien
If Ferjani Sassi was the artist in CS Sfaxien’s double last year, then Ndong was, allow me to create a new word, a graftist.
Indeed, the 19-year-old was very much the heartbeat and hard-man of the side. Sassi was the less aggressive and complete of the two, so it was often left to the peroxide-haired box-to-box midfielder to do the legwork – to manfully dominate the midfield; to cover in defence when the raiding full-backs were upfield; and to surge into the box when CS Sfaxien were on one of their breathtaking, frenetic forward forays.
His crowning performance, which encapsulated all his virtues, would come in the 1st leg of the CAF Confederations Cup final against TP Mazembe, where he would ice his midfield dominance with a long range effort that fizzled low past Robert Kidiaba to set CS Sfaxien on their way.
Blessed with the economy on the ball that keeps the Sfaxien midfield ticking, his matured style of play allowed him to go to the fervour of Stade TP Mazembe where he was outstanding again despite losing 2-1. In the end, after Fakhreddine Ben Youssef’s late header, it would still be enough to triumph with the second highest gong in African football.
Although Gabon failed to qualify for last year’s Afcon, their qualification doesn’t detract from the fact they have a promising generation coming through. Ndong is just another to add to the list. Like his team-mate Sassi, he is yet to force his way into his national team XI. But for now it seems a matter of inevitability rather than impossibility.
Words by Salim Masoud Said (@salimosaid)