Thank You, Football: Yaya Toure and Yacine Brahimi - Al Jazeera World
The stories of Yaya Toure and Yacine Brahimi whose lives have been transformed by their glittering careers in football.
Cote d’Ivoire captain and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure admits to being a dreamer from childhood, “Even wake up, I was dreaming sometimes.”
The Ivorian had been training at the MimoSifcom Academy in Cote d’Ivoire – home to the ASEC Mimosas of Abidjan – when he was spotted by former player and coach Jean-Marc Guillou. Toure’s brother, Kolo, had already made a splash playing for the Mimosas and soon joined Arsenal in the English Premier League. The two brothers would be reunited later in their careers.
Guillou noticed the younger Toure’s skill and ambition: “When they told me he was Kolo’s brother, I said he was better than his brother … Everything seemed easy for him. He was very determined and knew what he wanted. Back then I said this kid could eventually win the Golden Boot.”
He’s really an outstanding personality. For me it will be no surprise if one day Yaya will be like Nelson Mandela.
Dimitri Seluk, Yaya Toure’s agent
A 17-year-old Toure, along with four other MimoSifcom Academy players, were brought into the Belgian club KSK Beveren under Guillou’s guidance. Guillou would become co-manager of Beveren in 2001.
After two-and-a-half seasons at Beveren, Toure signed for Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine for 2m euros. In the next four years he played for Donetsk, Olympiakos in Greece and Monaco.
But it was while playing in Greece that he was spotted by agent Dimitri Seluk, and this would change Yaya’s life. He’d always dreamed of playing for Barcelona and Seluk made this possible, enabling Toure to sign for Barca and make his debut in August 2007.
“It was the best team in the world for me. Each position, the best one. Messi was coming up, Eto’o was the best striker. Henry who came from Arsenal with good experience from all that he had achieved in England. Iniesta was in the best shape of his life, Xavi was in the best shape of his life. I think from there I start to understand winning mentality and winning football,” says Toure.
Yaya Toure was part of the Barcelona side that won six trophies in 2009 and became the first Ivorian to win the UEFA Champions League. In 2010, he moved on, thanks to his brother’s efforts, and signed for Manchester City for 30 million euros. He scored in the 2011 FA Cup Final and played a vital role in helping City to their first English league title in 44 years.
“Yaya Toure is the catalyst, if you like, right in the centre of the team … Yaya was THE one that put Manchester City on the map,” says BBC Radio Manchester’s Ian Cheeseman.
Since Toure has been at City, they’ve won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and the FA Community Shield. He’s the Cote d’Ivoire captain but is struggling to get into the starting line-up at the moment because of an alleged dispute between his agent and the club’s manager, Pep Guardiola (who was also manager at Barcelona). Toure was appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador in 2013, joining its campaign against poaching in Africa.
Not unlike Toure, Algerian striker Yacine Brahimi also had big football dreams as a child. Now playing for FC Porto, Yacine recalls the moment he knew football was to be his future: “When I was young, playing football for me was a pleasure and a passion. Later, it became an obsession. It’s true that I quickly realised what I wanted to do was to play football for a major part of my life.”
Barely a teenager at 13, Brahimi joined Club Olympique Vincennes, a football academy for under-19s in the Paris suburbs, and was soon spotted by the director of another, more prestigious outfit. Jean-Claude Lafargue at the French national academy, INF, at Clairefontaine, selected Brahimi from a pool of almost 2,000 other aspiring young players to join the national set-up.
“He was small but very dynamic, agile and smiley,” says Lafargue. “Football was in his veins. It was a pleasure to see him play. He had just the kind of profile we look for. They don’t do things like other people. They have different ball-handling skills. When they play, it feels as though light is shining on them. They light up the game.”
You imagine one day being a professional. How will it feel every weekend, every day? At that moment, your dream might be starting to come true.
Yacine Brahimi, FC Porto
Brahimi joined French club Rennes straight from Clairefontaine, after being spotted by the director of the Rennes Training Centre, Patrick Rampillon. He went on loan to Clermont-Ferrand until his return to Rennes, despite interest from bigger clubs such as Arsenal and Real Madrid. But a shin injury ultimately led to changes for Brahimi sooner than he’d expected.