This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup suggested that France’s Kadidiatou Diani is a few strides down the Champs-Élysées to becoming one of the world’s most absorbing attacking performers. Along with instinct, ardour and skill, music is another ingredient to get the Paris Saint-Germain star rising up like a brilliant blue tide.
In a home World Cup, with scrutiny and spotlight like they had never quite encountered before, the quarter-final would be France’s last stop this summer, and undoubtedly short of the destination they had set their sights on. It was, however, a run not without its excitement, its fan fervour, and consolatory pockets of promise for that fabled ‘next time’.
Kadidiatou Diani was always a source of hope, as the number 11 slalomed on to new levels of performance in her second World Cup and fourth major tournament. With defender Griedge Mbock Bathy et al, the 24-year-old embodies Les Bleues’ flavour of the new school.
Glowing with energy and expression – it would be remiss not to say ‘joie de vivre’ – they carry the power of possibility; that they might hold the key to conquering future tournaments. For ‘Kadi’, it is not just the nutrition and training plans, good teammates and coaches, and a whole lot of technical practice that have her primed and ready to step up for France and Paris Saint-Germain.
“I just cannot live without music,” she says. “It’s something that motivates us in all circumstances.”
Elements of hip-hop, r&b, Afrobeats and more can be found in the tracks and artists she locks into the most.
“I like French artists like Vegedream, Dadju or Aya Nakamura. At the moment, I like to listen to Joeboy’s ‘Beginning’ and Chris Brown’s ‘No Guidance’ (featuring Drake).
“I also listen to African artists like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido.”
Kadi comes from Vitry-sur-Seine, three miles or so from central Paris, and has Malian family background. Of her aforementioned favourite artists, singer Aya Nakamura (her stage name taken from sci-fi series Heroes character Hiro Nakamura) hails originally from Mali’s capital Bamako.
The first on her list, Vegedream, like Kadi has West African heritage (Ivorian in his case), and he topped the French charts last summer with ‘Ramenez la coupe à la maison’ (‘Bring the Cup Back Home’). The song was released to celebrate France’s men’s team winning the World Cup in Russia, with Vegedream going through and name-checking the whole squad, including manager Didier Deschamps.
Later performing the track with the team at the Stade de France, it provided something all involved could revel in; the true uniting quality of music that makes incredible times somehow feel even more seismic. It seemed to resonate especially with the more visibly musically-inclined members of the squad, and for the women’s team, a soundtrack is also an essential, as Kadi explains.
“Griedge (Mbock Bathy) is the team DJ in the locker room with France. I have put the music on in the locker room before, but it’s more in the room at the hotel or in Clairefontaine (France’s national football base) that I put it on usually.”
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Heading into Euro 2017, ‘Comme DAB’ by Section Pull Up (featuring DJ Mike One) was Les Bleues’ song of choice, complete with dance routine to add in (when they won, of course). It was a particular favourite of players like midfielder Amandine Henry, who has since returned from Portland Thorns to represent Lyon, via a loan stint at PSG.
Kadi arrived at PSG herself from Juvisy (now Paris FC), with PSG breaking the Division 1 Féminine transfer fee to sign her. With nine games of the 2019/20 season gone, perennial champions and runners-up, respectively, Lyon and PSG, are currently the top two, while Kadi is the third-leading scorer in the league (on seven goals).
Recent France coach Olivier Echouafni’s Les Rouge-et-Bleu are an extremely cosmopolitan team, with players from Brazil to Poland, Norway to Chile, and various nations in between. As well as their Sweden defender, Kadi tells how it is an English-born/Swedish-raised/French-Iranian midfielder who prescribes the playlist vibes before kick-off – remarkably apt for the multi-national Parisiennes.
Kadi also describes her own preferred matchday mood and how music interlinks.
“The PSG DJs are Hanna Glas and Annahita Zamanian. I dance after the game if we win an important match; before the match, I prefer to be concentrated with my headphones.”
Operating mainly from the right flank, Kadi occasionally plays on the left, while we also saw her up front during the World Cup, alongside Valérie Gauvin and even by herself. In the quarter-final, extra-time victory (2-1) over Brazil in Le Havre, she burst down the right to deliver the cross for Gauvin’s opener, and she had done the same earlier on, only for VAR to rule out the goal.
Just prior to the tournament, she came up with a sensational solo goal in a 2-1 friendly win against China. Controlling a pass on the left, around 45 yards from goal, she ran on, holding off a foul and deftly slipping beyond one sliding challenge with a flash of skilful footwork. There were five opposing defenders around her by the time she unleashed her 20-yard finish.
It was another glimpse of her potentially spellbinding capabilities, though if she could see another performer bringing a stadium to their feet – music-only, and from all-time – who would she choose?
“I have never been to a show, but I would like to see Beyoncé or Aya Nakamura in concert.”
Interestingly enough, Kadi has been known as Beyoncé to some of her teammates over the years, with the suggestion that she mirrors some of the singer’s mannerisms on occasions! Back before she became Queen B in Bleue, she grew up with two sisters and three brothers, often playing football with her older brother and his friends. She was around ten years old when she started with her first team, having been encouraged by a neighbour who was also a coach.
On the music side, when asked if she recalls the first album or song she ever bought, Kadi had a shocking admission.
“I have actually never bought one!”
However, that does not mean she can’t make a track of her own for others to buy one day. If she was to step into the studio and record a song cover, with any teammate(s) she has had in football so far, PSG’s young left-back would be her preferred collaborator.
“I will choose a song of Aya Nakamura, with Perle Morroni.”
Although brimming with style both on and off the pitch, Kadi prefers to maintain a more reserved confidence, as she makes a conscious effort not to be ostentatious. The ‘role model’ line is arguably a well-worn one in sport, and ardent women’s football followers know that better than most, but Kadi possesses much to aspire to – motivated to thrive and consistently bringing enjoyment to people.
Like many in the women’s game, she was once the only girl in a boys’ team, and admits to feeling isolated for a time, having to get changed for games in the referees’ cloakroom. She even stopped playing, though thankfully, only temporarily.
The enjoyable and altogether more challenging experiences were equally significant for her in those formative years, and the picture she paints of where she has come from in Vitry-sur-Seine is roundly positive.
“Cool, it’s very cool. We have several stadiums and city stadiums today, too.
“Everyone loves football in the neighbourhoods.”
January of this year saw one of her career’s standout displays to date, as she scored twice in a 3-1 win in Le Havre for France against the United States, ending the world champions’ 28-game unbeaten streak in the process. A buried low finish from around ten yards was followed up in the second half by a chip over Alyssa Naeher into the far corner from the right side of the box.
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On commence l’année 2019 en bleue avec une belle victoire de l’équipe. Un grand merci à tous les supporters présent 🇫🇷❤️ #frausa #allezlesbleus #fiersdetrebleus #france #fifawwc #equipedefrance #football #sport PS: j’annoncerai vers 16h en story le gagnant du jeu concours 🇫🇷😃
A FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup winner in Azerbaijan in 2012 (with four goals), she tasted tournament success again a year later, as France lifted the UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship in Wales, (Kadi’s semi-final double seeing off Germany). The SheBelieves Cup win in 2017 is her solitary international trophy at senior level so far, and the desire to help deliver the national team’s first major tournament glory will remain with her until the day it becomes reality.
Asked whether she concurs with the suggestion that she has been scaling new heights with her performances recently, the 54-cap forward also responds to the question of whether she often analyses finer details of her game, or prefers to try and let it all flow naturally.
“Thank you, I feel good. I am focused on the objectives of the season for my club, and for the national team.
“I think especially of the specific match and the team more than my own game. It’s a team sport, you need a team to win, but as an attacker, you also have to score and make assists.”
In the UEFA Women’s Champions League, it is Arsenal to come in March for a PSG team that has twice been runners-up in the last five seasons but yet to have the champions’ medals around their necks. Many may not recall that Kadi went all the way to the semi-final with Juvisy in 2013, scoring against Lyon shortly after her 18th birthday, though a 9-1 aggregate defeat to a team containing Megan Rapinoe, Lotta Schelin, Louisa Nécib and other stellar names was an authentic taste of how ruthless such a stage can be.
Like various top-level internationals of a similar age, her game time and prominence has risen with each tournament she has been selected for. One of today’s foremost French talents, the last four years have seen her feature in two World Cups, an Olympic tournament and a European Championship.
Although incredibly valuable experience, that doesn’t come without taking a great deal out of a person, with various other commitments to go on top of the football side. So what else does the 2018 Coupe de France winner need in her life to help restore the balance?
“I enjoy travel, fashion, cars. I like to spend time with family and friends, also watching series on Netflix; I was a big fan of Game of Thrones.
“I like to watch great football players like Ronaldo – the (now-retired) Brazilian – and Cristiano Ronaldo.”
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Undoubtedly, she has emerged as one of the Division 1 Féminine’s most feared attacking players, and while the Lyon/PSG battle (Montpellier too perhaps?) will dominate attention as ever, the race to finish top scorer between Kadi, teammate Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Ada Hegerberg (Lyon) and others will add its own intrigue. France coach Corinne Diacre spoke during the summer of her being very valuable to her side, adding that she deploys her wherever she needs to for the team. She would surely be popping up here, there and everywhere in this final scenario.
As with each of these interviews, it is a fantasy small-sided game in which the player is asked to come up with four of the current or former teammates they would want in their line-up. So here’s Kadi’s quatre!
“Aïssatou Tounkara (Atlético Madrid and France defender) – she’s my girl and she’s strong. Marie Adram (former France youth international defender) – she is my best friend.
“Alice Benoit (Paris FC midfielder) – because she’s funny. Christiane Endler (Paris Saint-Germain and Chile goalkeeper) – because she’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”
To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes
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