Boulaye Dia is the former electrician who shocked Andre Villas-Boas and Marseille on the opening day… despite striker only turning professional LAST YEAR when he joined Reims
- Boulaye Dia was at the heart of Reims victory over Marseille on Saturday
- The striker scored the opening goal before setting up the second late on
- The 22-year-old only signed his first professional contract with the club last year
- He had previously been working as an electrician, and played in the seventh tier
The last time Andre Villas-Boas stepped into a technical area for an opening day fixture back in 2017, Boulaye Dia was still making his living as an electrician.
The former Chelsea boss may have wondered why he ever came back, his return to the dugout with Marseille ruined by the 22-year-old bright spark, who only signed his first ever professional contract last year.
Starting up top for Reims, the side that plucked him from the obscurity of Regional 2 — the seventh rung of French football, Dia grabbed the opening goal at the Stade Velodrome and set up substitute Suk Hyun-jun in stoppage time to ensure Villas-Boas was on the wrong end of the biggest shock of the opening weekend in Ligue 1.
Boulaye Dia celebrates after opening the scoring for Reims against Marseille on Saturday
The 22-year-old was one of the standout performers on the opening day of the campaign
The only thing more surprising is the striker’s route to the top.
Born in Oyonnax, Dia was the sixth-born of seven siblings. Honing his footballing abilities on pitches with his older brothers, he was used to playing with kids six or seven years older – something that stands him in good stead when it comes to coping against the dominating centre backs of France’s top flight.
Attempting to evade the bigger lumps would also have done no harm in developing his strongest attribute – his pace.
He showed promise at an early age but his footballing career almost ended before it had begun. Once while en route to Saint-Etienne’s academy, his father turned the car around after it developed a problem – salvaging the vehicle a more pressing matter than the 11-year-old’s trial.
Continuing to play while working all hours for a shipping company, Dia was eventually picked up by Jura Sud Foot in 2017. His 15 goals in 21 appearances caught the attention of Reims, who initially signed him to develop in their reserve squad.
Formerly an electrician, Dia only signed his first professional contract with Reims last year
His performance in training soon saw those plans scrapped, and he made his Ligue 1 debut on October 20, scoring his first goal a month later against Guingamp.
Now beginning his first full season as a professional, his team-mates are fully aware of what he adds to the squad.
‘He brings a freshness, his aggression, his energy, his movement. We can rely on him,’ Tristan Dingome said after Saturday’s victory.
His manager has just as much faith.
‘Even though he didn’t score during our pre-season, I knew that he would create chances this afternoon with his pace,’ said head coach David Guion.
It was a debut to forget in the Marseille dugout for former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas
For Marseille, and Villas-Boas, it was far from an ideal start to their campaign.
The Portuguese boss had suggested on the eve of the new season that the club were finished in the transfer market, following the arrival of Dario Benedetto from Boca Juniors.
Saturday’s result could force a rethink.
‘We played a little slow in attack,’ admitted the Marseille boss.
‘We were good down the right, but not the left. We should have brought in Dim [Dimitri Payet] more to find solutions. We needed his creativity.’
The problems may prove too big for one man alone to solve.
The Portuguese head coach has work to do after his side got off to a disappointing start