The 2011 Fifa U17 World Cup sensation has rekindled hopes for the future in his homeland as the country looks to the next generation of superstars
By Kingsley Kobo
After many years of waiting for a trophy from the best football generation Ivory Coast have ever produced, local fans have begun to resign themselves to the fact that the Didier Drogba-led era will never bring home a title worthy of its talent, especially as most of its players are now steering towards the twilight of their careers.
And with hearts still broken and heavy from the country’s deadly five-month post election crisis, football was yet to recover its hitherto ardour within the population until a certain Souleymane Coulibaly, out of the blue, smashed the newly-settled apathy towards the sport with his goal-scoring spree at the recently concluded U17 Fifa World Cup.
The 16-year-old was snappily nicknamed as the 'new Drogba' by Abidjan-based football aficionados, who now expect very little from the older personage and have long been in search of a new era and fresh ambitions attached to new heroes.
The news of Coulibaly’s recent move from Italy’s Siena youth outfit to Tottenham confirmed aspirations for a rosy career in the making, not only for the good of Spurs, but also for the Elephants, as many locals now jealously feel their pros don’t always transfer their club form to the international stage.
|CAREER STATISTICS | Souleymane Coulibaly (Tottenham & Ivory Coast)
Attributes: Pace, power, ball control
Coulibaly's new employers expect to groom the wonderkid into a fledged destroyer in the very near future, in a similar way to Ajax's moulding of Nigeria’s Kanu in the 1990s. He too was revealed to the world at the U17 World Cup in Japan 1993.
Back home, fingers are crossed and prayers are mounting for the success of the starlet, whom many feel will soon be the number one star in Ivory Coast.
Coulibaly himself humbly acknowledges Didier Drogba's evident physical advantage. “Drogba is taller than me, he’s more physically built than me and he’s better with air balls than me. If I can become a quarter of him I’d be so happy,” Coulibaly recently told Ivorian newspaper Frat Mat.
But the public is already blind to these imperfections. The nine goals the youngster netted in four matches in Mexico, which equalled the tournament’s top-scorer record, are enough of a sign to indicate that a star has been born.