Ask any sportsman or woman what they fear most during their relatively short time playing among the elite, and they will tell you it’s suffering a career-ending injury.
Those who have lived through it talk about the weeks or even months recovering from the physical pain of operations and physiotherapy, followed by years of accepting they will never perform at the same level again.
Fatou-Binetou Ba has been one of the unfortunate ones – a knee injury put an end to her career as a star of the Senegal women’s basketball league and her ambitions of playing in America’s NBA.
But a bus-load of faith in her own ability to succeed, coupled with huge amounts of hard work, has seen Fatou-Binetou join colleagues at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), as part of the current cohort of the FIFA Master International in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport.
She may never play in the NBA but a sports management job within the organisation could now be one of the many possibilities open to Fatou-Binetou when she completes the FIFA Master. She is also interested in working in football and helping her country organize 'the best ever' Youth Olympic Games in 2026.
Fatou-Binetou said: “The first thing you think in the instant the injury happens is 'this is over. My career is over. My chances of turning professional is over'.
“It takes time and a lot of strength to accept your fate and to start thinking about a new future and a new destiny.
“Your family and friends are so important at that time and you realise how much character and positive attitude you need to keep believing in yourself and to keep on going.
“Now I am the first Senegalese woman to be studying for the FIFA Master and I am incredibly proud of that. It is great to have the opportunity and maybe I can work in the sport industry with great commitment.”
International goalkeeper Zeina to inspire Arab women in sport through FIFA Master
FIFA Master named best in Europe for record eighth year
Be inspired. Come to the next DMU Digital Open Day
Fatou-Binetou’s mother tells her she was born to be a sportswoman. The story goes that her mum was six months pregnant with Fatou-Binetou when she and her husband were attending the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. African Muslim athlete Nawal El Moutawakel, of Morocco, won her first ever 400m hurdles and Fatou-Binetou’s mum was so excited she was leaping up and down. "I probably felt the happiness in my mum's belly’, Fatou-Binetou says.
Fatou-Binetou, who is 5ft 9ins tall, was the tallest baby in the hospital and 'was destined to play sport – or more specifically, basketball'.
Her talent as a centre, or pivot as it’s known in her native tongue of French, won her a trial in the national junior team while playing with ASC Bopp in 2001 and then a national senior prize with Sicap Basketball Club in 2009.
Fatou (front with trophy) celebrates a win with her basketball team
She said: “If I could do it all again I would, but my parents had always told me I should study alongside sport so that I had another objective in my professional career. Maybe I will perform even better as a sports developer.”
Her studies in the French cities of Limoges and Paris have seen her gain master’s degrees in International Relations and International Civil Service (HEIP Paris), and Humanitarian Action (IRIS- Paris) as well as a BA in English and Spanish at the Université de Limoges.
She also spent three months living in Nottingham with a family that turned her into a fluent English speaker, although the East Midlands accent baffled her mum. “When I returned my mum said ‘are you sure you are speaking English’”, she laughs.
Fatou -Binetou is loving her time at DMU studying for the FIFA Master – and she has developed a passion for Rugby Union following a class field trip to Rugby School, where the game started.
She said: “I discovered rugby and I kind of fell in love with it. I learned about the English public school system, which is very different to Senegal, as well as the political, historical and ideological perspective. It was fascinating.
“I have about 16 books on rugby and I have read almost all of them. There is no doubt I am a rugby fan now.
“The lockdown has been frustrating but I totally understand why it is important. But it does mean I am dedicating a lot of time to reading, and I am learning so much. I think my whole life has been working towards this and I look forward to going back to Senegal, sharing my knowledge and being an asset to my country.”
The FIFA Master International MA in Management, Law and Humanities, co-ordinated by the Centre International d’Etude du Sport (CIES) in Switzerland, sees students spend three months each at DMU, the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and the Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
At DMU, the course is taught by the team at the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), where students learn the history of sports and discuss topical issues and challenges facing the sports industry.
The course was this year named the best of its kind in Europe for an incredible eighth time.
Posted on Tuesday 17th November 2020