Maazou dreaming of Stade de France success

MONACO - The Niger flag will flutter at the Stade de France if Monaco beat Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup final on Saturday.

Behind the plan is 21-year-old striker Moussa Maazou, who scored his side's winners in their quarter-final and semi-final ties as a substitute.

"I want to wave the Niger flag if we win so that people can see what it looks like and that they can see Niger is not Nigeria," the Niamey-born Maazou told Reuters in an interview.

Wearing baggy jeans and a white sweater as he enjoyed the sun at Monaco's training ground, Maazou added: "If the coach asks me to play, I will do everything I can to score."

Maazou, who runs a 100 metres in less than 11 seconds, adds his speed and cheek every time he steps on the pitch.

He joined Monaco on loan from CSKA Moscow last January and had an immediate impact, scoring four goals from 14 appearances, eight of them as a substitute.

He has been even more impressive in Cup games, netting one in Monaco's 2-0 win at Girondins Bordeaux in the last 16 and scoring the winner in a 4-3 defeat of Sochaux after extra time.

Maazou did it again in the semi-final, heading home the only goal against Lens in extra time.


After his debut at Niamey's AFSAN club, Maazou now dreams of emulating his idol, Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

"It is my dream to have a career like his. So Monaco was the right choice, also because they always have great strikers," he said.

Maazou left his home country in January 2008 as one of many African players travelling to Belgium to start their European careers.

He went for Lokeren, scoring 15 goals from 32 games until joining Moscow after being spotted by then CSKA manager Zico.

In his bags were sweet memories from his childhood in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, where he used to work as a mechanic with his father.

"He was poor but he would do anything possible so we could have what we needed at home," said Maazou, who is involved in Niamey with an association trying to bring children an education through sport.

"I would work with him but I always had a ball under my arm and we would go and play football with my (elder) brother. We would use car batteries by way of goal posts," he added with a laugh.

With Niger internationals regularly stopping by his home, Maazou was meant for football. Even his mother eventually embraced the idea.

"She wanted me to go to school but she realised what I wanted and since then, she supported me," he said.

His mother, however, died last January.

"Before she was gone she told me things that support me daily. I know I play for her, I always think of her because I know she prays for me at every game," added Maazou, who earned the first of his five caps with Niger in a 1-0 defeat against Uganda in a World Cup qualifier in May 2008.

Maazou will also have a thought for his compatriots during Saturday's final.

"I know that they feel passionately about this final," he said.