Bacary Sanya (left) with Mamadou Sakho at Al Nasr Club during a charity match to raise money for underprivileged children. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Dubai: France will be trying to defend their World Cup title in Qatar when the tournament kicks off next week but the squad has been hampered by injuries.

Le Bleus have lost key midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante while centre back Wesley Fofana has also been ruled out of the showpiece leaving coach Didier Deschamps a little weak at the back.

It was a surprise that he did not turn to Mamadou Sakho to cover for Fofana. Sakho has played 29 games for the national side and also has 2 goals to his name.

The former Liverpool and Paris-Saint Germain defender - who made his World Cup debut in 2014 - was playing in a charity match on Tuesday at Al Nasr Club in an an initiative led by Noor Foundation Dubai and in collaboration with Dubai Sports Council.

Skills and thrills

The fundraiser for children also boasted former Arsenal and Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna and former Tottenham and QPR winger Adel Taarabt while freestyle footballer Sean Garnier provided lots of skills and thrills.

When it comes to football and charity, names like Sadio Mane, Mo Salah or Blaise Matuidi crop up, but Sakho has also been doing some exemplary charitable work for years.

Born to Senegalese parents in Paris, he was the fourth child of a family of seven children who had to live on the streets for years. “When you have lived a hard life, charity comes naturally in your mind,” said the Montpellier star. “I try my best to help kids. When I was young I had a difficult life I used to sleep in the streets, I always said to myself if I make it one I will give back. I came to Dubai to visit some kids and to have positive talks with the authorities and I am really happy to be here in this beautiful event and to try to raise money to help some children in the world.”

He was raised in the Parisian district of Goutte d’Or, which is close to Montmartre. These days it’s been described as a “creative hub,” but by the sound of it life was a bit tougher for Sakho. But it was while playing for PSG that Sakho and his wife launched Amsak which undertakes charitable work in France, England and Africa. “Amsak means Association Mamadou Sakho. I started my association when I was 18 when I was in PSG. I think it’s important to go in Africa and help people there and all over the world.”

Big difference

He believes football can make a big difference to the lives of underprivileged children. “When you become a professional footballer you are always on TV so you can inspire people, many kids dream to become players. And when you come to events like this with school children to speak with them and give them advice with positive talking you bring hope in their hearts and give them power. Many of them will go back to school with more energy,” he said.

But it isn’t just the beautiful game that can help. “I think in the world every industry can help more – football is helping many kids not only with money but with advice also. I think you can see many footballers going to hospitals to visit kids there and going to schools and doing many other things also like building schools. So it is something important and we just try to do our best. We are not the richest people in the world we are just doing the best we can.”

Sakho will be part of a star studded line up for the Amsak Charity Gala in Dubai on November 16 at the Four Seasons Hotel. The charitable initiative’s revenue will be allocated for the support of orphaned children.