Throughout the World Cup, we are looking back on key moments from current and former Palace stars’ careers in their respective national shirts. With Senegal finally in action today, Pape Souare remembers when he represented them in the 2012 London Olympics.
For many Londoners, when they are reminded of the 2012 Olympics, strong memories come flooding back of a warm, glorious summer when the capital was the focus of the world.
The names of Jessica Ennis, Usian Bolt and Mo Farah are synonymous with those particular Games, however someone else who can lay claim to being an Olympian is Pape Souare who represented Senegal’s under-23 side in the football competition.
The Palace left-back would be an unwitting part of history as in the opening game he faced a team representing Great Britain for the first time since 1960, managed by Stuart Pearce and featuring a young James Tomkins in their ranks. However, the Africans, including Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gueye, Mohamed Diame, would play the role of party poopers as they claimed a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, kick-starting a successful run for the Cubs of Teranga.
Reflecting on his Olympic experience to the Palace matchday programme in 2015, Souare said: “It was a good experience for me, especially because I got to play at great stadiums like Old Trafford and Wembley and it helped with my progression.
“Our first game was against Great Britain and it was great to play against the hosts. I was surprised when I came onto the pitch because there was a lot going on in and around the stadium but we were just trying to do our best. We played well and got a good result in our first game.
“We went 1-0 down when Craig Bellamy scored but we worked hard and went on to score and drew 1-1 which was a good result for us because it was a very hard game. Britain had a lot of great players in their team such as Daniel Sturridge, Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Giggs.
“Playing against him was amazing because he was a big player and I was just 22-years-old, so I was just trying to focus on the game and not the atmosphere.”
After sharing the spoils, Britain and Senegal would get out of the group stages but both suffered quarter-final exits to South Korea and Mexico respectively. However, Souare was proud of his nation’s efforts during his first taste of life in England, which would plant the seed for his eventual move to Selhurst Park in January 2015.
“It was a tough group for us because as well as Senegal there was Britain and Uruguay,” he said. “It was a great experience for all of our squad as we got through to the quarter-finals after finishing second in the group. We played Mexico in the knockout stages but we lost 4-2 after extra-time, but it was a great effort by the squad to get that far because Mexico went on to win the gold medal.
“That was the first time that I played in England, and when I was in France it was always my dream to play here. That tournament made me want to come here even more, so when the chance came to move to Palace I knew I had to do it.”