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Keita Balde: Senegal support winger as doping ban hits World Cup hopes

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 20, 2022  •  14
Keita Balde of Senegal
Keita Balde, an unused substitute in the final, celebrates the moment Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse and many of his squad have been rallying round Keita Balde after it was announced the winger could miss the World Cup because of an anti-doping violation.

Balde, who now plays for Spartak Moscow in Russia, has been suspended for 90 days by Italy's anti-doping body for protocol transgressions when taking a test in April.

The test, which showed no signs of banned substances, came after his former Italian side Cagliari lost 5-1 at Udinese.

"Keita Balde has been in contact with many team-mates from the Senegalese national team and with coach Cisse himself," a source close to the player told BBC Sport Africa.

"All of them have shown solidarity and support, with the hope that everything can possibly be fixed quickly and he can be part of the expedition to Qatar.

"He is considered one of the most experienced members of the group and his presence is valued important among the dressing room."

With six goals from 40 caps for the Teranga Lions, Balde represented Senegal at the 2018 World Cup in Russia as well as the past three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.

The 27-year-old, who played in the group stages of Senegal's victorious Nations Cup campaign earlier this year, will be free to play again on 5 December.

This puts his participation for the World Cup, with Senegal's group games taking place between 21-29 November, into serious doubt, with the Round of 16 matches taking place from 3 December onwards.

He is allowed to resume training 22 days before the end of his suspension.

"It's important to underline and highlight that Keita Balde's test result is negative, so clearly no banned substances have been found in his test," a statement from Balde's agents Sports Management said.

"However, in accordance with the disciplinary code, any doping-related sanction imposed by another national or international sports association, or national anti-doping organisation, is automatically accepted by Fifa and must be recognised by all confederations and associations.

"As a ... consequence, the sanction applied by the Italian Anti-Doping Organisation is subject to recognition by the Russian Football Federation."

Balde, formerly with Inter, Lazio and Sampdoria in Italy, joined Spartak in August and had been named in the Teranga Lions' 29-man squad for forthcoming friendlies against Bolivia in Orleans on Saturday and Iran in Austria on Tuesday 27 September.

Meanwhile, Noah Fadiga has also been forced to withdraw from the Senegal squad after suffering a concussion while playing for club side Brest.

Born in Girona, Spain, to Senegalese parents, Balde came through the prestigious youth ranks at Barcelona from the age of nine until 16 when he signed for Italian side Lazio in 2011.

He scored 41 goals in 185 Serie A appearances, in a career that has taken him from Italy to Russia via spells in Italy and with French side Monaco.

Eligible for his country of birth, he opted for Senegal in 2015 and made his debut as a substitute against Niger in March 2016.

In Qatar, Senegal will play the Netherlands in their opening game before facing the hosts themselves and Ecuador in Group A.