Manchester City fans believe they possess a gem in Leroy Sane – and the rising Germany star’s lineage may go some way in explaining the player’s unique talent. Like Sane himself, his parents aren’t run-of-the-mill either.
Sane’s father, Souleyman Sane, was one of the first black players in the Bundesliga and banged goals in for fun throughout his professional career in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The son of Senegalese diplomats, Souleyman arrived in France aged four, and opted to play football, despite protestations from his father. Living in Paris, Souleyman was a talented young player, but was called up to French military service in 1982.
By law, as a promising young footballer, Souleyman could have been based close to home, but the prodigious striker was on holiday at the time and was unable to send off the application, so was sent to serve across the border to the Black Forest.
Souleyman turned out for SV Donaueschingen in his spare time and attracted the attention of a nearby Bundesliga club. At 24, Souleyman Sane signed his first professional contract with SC Freiburg in 1985.
Not only could Souleyman run 100 metres in 10.7 seconds, he was lethal in front of goal. He scored 56 goals in 106 Freiburg games before moving on to FC Nurnberg in 1988 and then SG Wattenscheid in 1990, who were playing in the highest division in Germany at the time.
Souleyman scored 39 goals in 117 games at Wattenscheid before moving on in 1994. As one of the relatively few black players in Germany’s higher leagues in the mid-to-late 1980s, Souleyman faced disgraceful racism. Once, while at Nurnberg, a banana was thrown at Souleyman and, like Dani Alves, he took a bite out of it.
Souleyman also butted a journalist for making disparaging remarks about his wife. But Nurnberg coach Hermann Gerland backed his player, and jokingly asked the striker: “Why didn’t you kill him?” But he was loved by fans for his goals and his work rate, earning the nickname, ‘Samy’.
Souleyman would eventually marry Leroy’s mother, another exceptional athlete, Regina Weber. Weber is one of the best gymnasts Germany has ever produced, and the country’s only female Olympic medal winner in rhythmic gymnastics, having scooped bronze in 1984. The pair met in the Ruhr area of Germany after Souleyman had returned to Germany following spells in Austria and Switzerland.
Leroy may be the pick of the brood, but all three of their sons were youth players at Schalke. Sane Jnr possesses the blistering pace of his father and the agility of his mother and, having graduated from one of German football’s finest academies, is already showing signs of lighting up English football.