SENY DIENG holds up his hand at a slanted angle to portray the lop-sided pitch he once played on in non-league and grins.
The affable goalkeeper has come a long way in the last half a decade, from turning out in the Conference South with Whitehawk and Hampton to becoming QPR’s No1.
And now he has something truly special to smile about which completes his journey from football obscurity to its pinnacle – a World Cup with Senegal.
The 27-year-old, who is in the Lions of Teranga’s squad to face the Netherlands in their Group A opener on Monday, tells SunSport: “It’s crazy.
“Thinking about it, it was five years ago I was playing in the Conference South and now I’m going to the World Cup.
“It’s a very, very, very big jump. It’s amazing and very exciting.
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“Even now, I remember playing for Whitehawk and Hampton in the Conference South, it wasn’t very pretty.
“I’m definitely delighted that these times are past me now and I can play at a higher level.
“But at the same time, it’s a good experience to see that kind of stuff.”
Dieng had loan spells at Whitehawk, Hampton & Richmond Borough, Stevenage, Dundee and Doncaster before finally making it in the R’s first team two years ago.
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Raising his hand at a 45-degree angle, he adds: “I remember the pitch that we had at Whitehawk was like this, you know what I mean?
“In one half, you would play up the hill.
“In another game, the pitch was so bad that in front of my area, it was completely mud.
“Someone would shoot, I would dive, but the ball would just stop in front of me in the mud!”
Dieng was born in Switzerland, the country of his mother’s birth, but always wanted to play for Senegal ever since watching the famous class of 2002 reach the quarter-finals.
He earned a call-up in 2014 but only won his first cap last year and now has three to his name, two of which have come while No1 Edouard Mendy has injured.
The Chelsea stopper is back now and so will likely start against the Dutch, but Dieng is ready to step up if needed.
All of Senegal are of course devastated after talisman Sadio Mane was ruled out of the tournament through injury.
Dieng is a huge fan of ex-Liverpool hero both as a player and as a person.
And the way he talks about Mane's influence, it is obvious what a huge blow not having the Bayern Munich star will be.
The goalie explains: “He’s an amazing player, one of the best in the world. You saw at the Ballon D’Or he came second.
“You see with Liverpool now, I think any team would miss Sadio Mane leaving them. He definitely left a big hole there.
“Off the pitch, he’s very humble. He doesn’t think he stands above anyone else. He’s good to everyone, he’s always ready to help.
“You can also see that he is obsessed with football. He’s always thinking about how we can optimise our performance, be it the right nutrition, an ice bath, the right amount of sleep.”
Senegal also boast the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Ismaila Sarr.
They look a force to be reckoned with who no one should write off – even if that is exactly what happened to Dieng previously in his own career.
The stopper, who idolised Brazilian Dida and Senegal’s 2002 keeper Tony Sylva as a kid, reflects: “I always believed in myself, even if a lot of people didn’t!
“It’s about being given the opportunity to show my ability. It’s hard as a goalkeeper to come through, you have to be very patient, keep going and keep working.
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“We have great individual players at Senegal but we are also a great collective. We are a family out here.
“The whole country stands behind us. I think there is no limit to where we can go.”
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