Photo by Bernard Rieu
22-year-old Toulouse prop Justin Sangaré is a model player and an inspiration to his community. He made his debut with the first team in 2016, just after leaving the U17 team. Justin was born in Mali but raised in the Bagatelle district, a troubled area of Toulouse, France’s fourth-largest city.
During his youth, Justin played football, the same as every child in his neighbourhood. Today, many of his former teammates have strayed off the straight and narrow but Justin chose a different path.
When he was 10, he discovered Rugby League when the Toulouse Olympique community programme visited his school. A 3-month course to learn Rugby League is offered by coaches who work in many schools in the city, many of which are in deprived areas.
As soon as he tried rugby league, Justin knew he had found his “thing” and decided to give up football to join Toulouse Olympique, even though his friends did not understand and even laughed at him.
Tout ce qu’il faut savoir se trouve ici 👉 https://t.co/r51XdnGFoR
— Toulouse Olympique XIII (@TOXIII) April 15, 2020
“I was playing football to be like everyone else, but rugby league was my choice. It was the first time I felt confident and I have never regretted it.” he stated.
Then, everything took off for Justin: his size, strength and work ethic allowed him to perform and to reach the high-level. He represented France in every age group and was knocking on the door of the professional squad very early, even though he still a member of the Toulouse Olympique youth academy.
“Of course, my main goal is to play Super League with my hometown club, but I don’t want to set myself any limits, I want to see where I will be able to go, maybe even Australia,” says Justin.
He had his first opportunity to play in Australia last autumn when he took part in the International Rugby League 9’s World Cup and in also two additional 13-a-side matches. These were his first caps with the ‘Tricolores’, hopefully, the first of many.
However, this year Justin stays focused on his season with Toulouse Olympique and wants to be a model for other kids from his district. His first project is his “little” (1,90m+) brother, Paul, who following in his inspirational sibling’s footsteps, has recently joined Toulouse Olympique after quitting… football! A familiar path in the Sangare household.