Moustapha Cisse: The Teenage Refugee That's Gone From The 8th Tier To Serie A

A fairytale story has unfolded in Italy
07:00, 04 Apr 2022

Moustapha Cisse was playing for a refugee team earlier this year, now the teenage star is living his very own Roy of the Rovers fairytale.

The 18-year-old striker made waves when he scored on his Serie A debut for Italian side Atalanta and it’s little surprise the Guinea-born forward has been tipped to become a real star of the future and one to watch on the world stage.

Cisse’s father sadly died a couple of years ago and, then aged 16, he left his native home of Conakry in search of a better life.

The orphan faced many challenges, not least the tragic loss of his dad, and courageously vowed to make his mum proud after the family tragedy and his hard work and dedication famously led to him being carried off the pitch on the shoulders of his proud Atalanta teammates. They knew just how far Cisse had come from his days playing for ASD Rinascita Refugees in the eighth tier of Italian football.

And so does Antonio Palma, who is the president of ASD Rinascita Refugees.

Palma saw first-hand Cisse’s potential – and when the scouts kept coming to watch him play, well he knew it was only a matter of time before the club’s hot property was destined for pastures new.

"He was a polite and respectful boy, he dreamed of becoming a football player,” revealed Palma. "After a series of family events, including the death of his father, Moustapha dropped out of school as a teenager and left Guinea in search of a better life.

"At the time he was a 16-year-old boy: disorientated, scared, who didn't know what to do. 

“Within the project, there is a football team, the Renaissance Refugees, who are made up of the boys beneficiaries of the reception.

"That's where Moustapha moves his first steps on the Italian fields. In a short time, he became one of our most important footballers. He always kept the signboard, he was our best maker.”

Atalanta sent scouts to watch Cisse on a regular basis and, in February this year, they pounced to sign the teenager on his first professional deal.

His life changed forever from that money – and he was soon the toast of the Bergamo when he came off the substitute’s bench to score on his league debut against Bologna at the Stadio Dall’Ara.

"He made his dream of a lifetime come true, yet he didn’t lose his sensitivity and he remained the boy forever,” reflected a proud Palma.

Cisse’s crucial winning goal was the icing on the cake for what is already a heartwarming story which would no doubt make his late father incredible proud. He’s certainly come a long since his humble football beginnings on the streets of Lecce, where he first discovered his love for the game.

Cisse dedicated his poignant winner to his mum, who has played such a big role in his life.

“I dedicated the goal to my Mum, as she told me to make this gesture for her," Cisse told the official Atalanta YouTube Channel.

“I used to watch Atalanta on TV in Lecce. Their 2020 season was impressive, it was the moment I got to know Atalanta.

“Then they came to play against Lecce, I went to see them. When I was told that an Atalanta director had come to see me, I thought they were kidding. My friends and I used to play football just to have fun in the summer.

“I was invited for a test in Bergamo and now I'm here with Atalanta. I don't have words to describe it!

“I thought I would have come on for only two or five minutes on my Serie A debut, but the coach told me to warm up just 10 minutes into the second half. I told myself, it's impossible.

“I put all the emotions aside to make the most of this opportunity and gave it everything I had. 

“I scored in Serie A, but I know this is only the beginning and I need to keep working hard."

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