Idrissa Keita – A Tale of Resilience and Grit


DAKAR, Senegal (Apr. 2024) - From the streets of Dakar to qualifying for Paris 2024 Paralympics, Idrissa Keita’s story is of resilience, grit and unwavering determination.


His journey of rising from destitution – when he had to even beg money in the streets of Dakar for food – to making destiny through Para Taekwondo is no less than a fairy-tale story and, the 20-year-old from Kaolack, Senegal describes it as a ‘dream’.


“Everything for me is a dream now - my journey from Kaolack to obtaining the ticket for the Paris 2024!”


“It is the biggest dream of every athlete to participate in Paralympics and for me, I am very happy and honoured to have qualified and is proud to represent my country,” said Keita, who earned the qualifying ticket for Paris 2024 after winning the gold at the Africa Qualification event in Dakar, Senegal.


He now aspires to win a Paralympic medal for his country, which will be a first for Senegal which has participated in the Paralympics since Beijing 2008.


And for that, Keita is putting all his hours and energy in improving his technique and skills, five days in a week, in his Taekwondo club, Keumgang Léopold Sédar Seghor, in Dakar.


“My biggest dream is to help my family, especially my mother – fulfil all her needs and give her a comfortable life. All thanks to Para Taekwondo, I am already making her feel proud and happy.”


For Keita, Para Taekwondo means ‘discipline’ now. “It’s (Para Taekwondo) a way of life which allow us (disabled people) to thrive and not have any complexes about ourselves. It’s about showing the whole world that we can do something with our disability.”


The journey

Forced to leave school at the age of 16, Keita left his home and his hometown Kaolack to support his family after his father passed away.


“Our economic condition had deteriorated - I had to leave school and look for work to help my mother. But despite trying for several months, I didn’t succeed. It was when I left my native village and moved to Dakar in search of work and better life,” said the promising player, who has disability in his right hand.


There were days when Keita had to beg in the streets of Dakar for food, but fate had other plans for him. Soon, his life was going to change.


“In my free time I like to go for a walk at the (Parcelles Assainies) beach, listen to music and watch videos of Taekwondo fights. I was always passionate about Taekwondo,” he shared.


It was one of the days last year when Keita met Maitre Abdoulaye Ndiaye, coach of the Senegalese national Para Taekwondo team, in the streets to the Parcelles Assainies beach and the rest was history.


“He (The coach) asked to join Para Taekwondo after knowing my interest in the sport. I didn't have to pay any registration fees as he (Maitre Abdoulaye Ndiaye) took care of everything for me. I started training right away at a club - I was determined to be part of the national team, after learning that the Paralympic Games could change my life forever and allow me to support my family.”


‘Life has changed’

With two and a half months of training, Keita participated in the African Qualification tournament for Paris 2024 Games under the colours of the Senegalese national team, and it was a ‘dream come true moment for him to have qualified for the Paralympics’.


“All the credit goes to coach Abdoulaye Ndiaye who introduced me to Taekwondo, found me a club and inserted me into the national team. My life has changed completely since then. My sole focus is getting better in Para Taekwondo now.”


“I hope to win a Paralympic medal for my country which has not yet happened so far.”


Having taken a step in realising his biggest dream, Keita also has a message for the aspiring Para Taekwondo players.


“Everything is possible if you believe in yourself – you can start from nothing and achieve your goals,” he concluded.