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with the Guinean medical staff, between state-of-the-art machines and improvised care centers…
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with the Guinean medical staff, between state-of-the-art machines and improvised care centers…
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CAN-2022 puts players’ bodies to the test. Under these conditions, the work of a team’s medical staff is essential to perform in the competition. That of Guinea opened its doors to France 24 a few hours before a match.

The hotel suite has been emptied of its furniture to make room for three massage tables. The bathroom has become a room for taking ice baths. The bedroom, meanwhile, is now dedicated to recovery with cryotherapy suits spread out on the bed. In every corner, a jumble of boxes with straps, creams, bandages but also state-of-the-art machines dedicated to the health of the players of Guinea, who will face The Gambia on Monday January 21 in the round of 16. Met just before their last group match against Zimbabwe, the medical staff explained to France 24 their working methods.

“Basically, this must have been Kaba Diawara’s room [le sélectionneur de la Guinée, NDLR]. We have completely reorganized the space so that it is fluid, functional, comfortable for the care of the players”, explains Bruno Da Cruz, doctor from Guinea.

The doctor has worked with Guinea since 2015. At the time, Luis Fernandez was the national coach. Personal acquaintance of the former player and coach of PSG, Bruno Da Cruz joins the technical staff of Syli national. Ousted by the Belgian Paul Put between March 2018 and July 2019, he returned under the leadership of Didier Six then now Kaba Diawara.

“It’s a fight in every hotel where we are staying. At the start of the group stage, we were in a base camp in Bafoussam. They had put the care center 2 km from the hotel. We preferred transform my room to accommodate the players. It’s a bit ‘roots’ sometimes”, smiles the doctor. “But hey if to do a recovery massage, the players have to do fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back, that’s useless.”

The African Cup of Nations is known for testing players’ bodies. High temperatures, matches at the start of the afternoon, lawns sometimes at the limit of practicability, not to mention the adaptation outside matches to spaces far from the cocoons that European clubs can offer.

“The environment is not good for the players: the heat is overwhelming, the food is terrible, the mosquitoes attack us”, list Bruno Da Cruz. “You have to adapt.”

The body, the work tool of the athlete

A few hours before the kick-off of the match against Zimbabwe, the trainers are very attentive to the players who request their services. For Mohamed Bayo, it is electrostimulation to treat his knee, after a blow received during the previous match. For Aly Camara, a more traditional massage. For Aguibo Camara, on the other hand, the staff uses an “innovative treatment”, a “photobiomotivation” aimed at resolving lesions by stimulating both the liver and the inflammatory focus using light and lasers. “Guinea is undoubtedly the only selection to have this treatment”, boasts the head of the medical staff.

“It’s not wound care. We’re more in care that accompanies the player’s pre-match rituals,” reassures Bruno Da Cruz.

“Care is important. To perform, we need that. It’s important to take care of our body. It’s our working tool”, notes the young striker from Clermont-Ferrand, Mohamed Bayo, 23 years old.

These pre-match treatments are also a privileged moment for the players. If some are already concentrated, in a bubble listening to music, headphones on their ears, others are chatting with the masseurs, joking and laughing frankly. A way to lower the tension before the upcoming match.

From Formula 1

“I like to compare them to Formula 1 cars. Here, we are at Ferrari. They are racing cars. They have a type of essence, their settings are reviewed at each pit stop. stands”, dares Bruno Da Cruz. “We have lots of data coming to us and we are trying to push the sliders as best we can to optimize their performance.”

Perfectionist and avant-garde, the head of Guinea’s medical staff has multiplied investments in state-of-the-art equipment to best monitor the players. In total, 160,000 euros in medical equipment purchases have been made in recent years.

“We support our team with state-of-the-art equipment that even some Ligue 1 clubs don’t have,” explains Bruno Da Cruz. “Thanks to all of this, we have an almost negative infirmary in terms of injured people, we are carrying out quality monitoring,” he says.

Suddenly, a recording of surahs from the Quran is heard. Guinea’s absolute star Naby Keita arrives in turn for his final pre-game rituals. He comes to perform a relaxation session to get in condition to the sound of the Koran which escapes from his portable speaker. His own ritual to concentrate before a deadline. Accustomed to the very high level and at the top of Europe with Liverpool, the Guinean midfielder judges the advanced equipment adapted to the requirements of the competition.

“It’s much better than before. We didn’t have all these machines. It’s important because we have a string of matches and now our physios come to pick us up in the room to check what we need”, explains Naby Keita. “Some have complained about the matches at 2 p.m. But we are ready at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. for our nation, to make it proud.”

“We try to reassure the clubs”

The month preceding the opening of the CAN was however peppered with controversy: the clubs, in particular English, left the threat of not releasing their players. Jürgen Klopp, the coach of Naby Keita at Liverpool, was one of the most vocal on the subject speaking of a “small tournament” where he lost “his best players”. According to Bruno Da Cruz, this equipment is also a way of reassuring the clubs.

“We exchange a lot and in complete transparency with the clubs. We show them that we are not there to hurt their players. But there are inevitably tensions and pressures from the clubs. Legitimate pressures with regard to their sporting challenges, but we have done everything to communicate and reassure”, assures Bruno Da Cruz.

The match against Zimbabwe finally came to an end. Guinea suffered a surprising defeat against the Warriors (2-1), yet eliminated before the match. A poor performance which caused the national Syli to lose first place in the group, without consequence however. For its round of 16 against Gambia, Guinea returns to Bafoussam, where Bruno Da Cruz and his team already have their bearings. It remains to repack the 16 suitcases of equipment.

with the Guinean medical staff, between state-of-the-art machines and improvised care centers…
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