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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 10:25, June 11, 2006
Toure, player to watch in Cote d'Ivoire
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Kolo Toure Habib's only career move to date could hardly have been a bigger one. After all, this model defender, who embodies the consistency and determination of the current Cote d'Ivoire team, went directly from ASEC Abidjan to English giants Arsenal.

Toure first joined ASEC Abidjan's youth training centre back in 1994, having been spotted playing in an eight-a-side match for his local team in the Adjame area of the city against Jean-Marc Guillou's ASEC Academy. ASEC scouts picked out Toure and one of his friends, none other than Aruna Dindane.

Toure, the son of a fireman, was brought in to swell the ranks of the Mimosifcom Academy, as it was also called.

Toure's father was a man of discipline, used to life at the station as a serviceman, and thus found it hard to come to terms with his eldest son's choice of career. However, he finally came around to accepting young Kolo's dreams of being a professional sportsman.

"I sent my son to school for him to become a civil servant, not a footballer," he said. "It was a real surprise when he chose to become a footballer, and to begin with I was against it, since I was worried that he wouldn't make the grade. But he was persistent, so I let him choose his own path."

Toure stood out from his team-mates at the centre thanks to his strength and athleticism and, despite starting out life as a midfielder, he eventually moved back into defence, where he formed a dream centre-half pairing with Saint Etienne's Didier Zokora.

In 1999, Toure played in the centre's first official match when ASEC Abidjan played Esperance de Tunis in the African Super Cup. In a display belying his 17 years, he kept the experienced Nigerian striker Gabriel Okolosi under wraps, leading to early comparisons with Ivorian defensive stars of the past such as Jean-Baptiste Akra, Francois Monguehi and Ghislain Akassou.

Toure continued to make astounding progress, and after two seasons at the ASEC, he was spotted by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. He was invited to London for a trial, thus becoming the first ever Ivorian player at Highbury.

His time to date at the Gunners has seen him come to terms with the physical nature of the English game, and his apprenticeship, alongside defensive stalwarts such as Sol Campbell, has continued apace.

For Youssouf Fofana, a former assistant to Jean-Marc Guillou, this comes as no surprise. "He is a great defender and he never loses a one-on-one. He still has a lot of room for improvement, and what is more, he is down-to-earth and has a lot of respect for others."

Toure won his first cap in 2002, and since then he has become a lynchpin in 'The Elephants' defence. Every time he pulls on the national team jersey Toure plays his heart out, a fact not lost on his father. "My son is incredibly patriotic," comments Toure senior. "He's always prepared to give his all for his country."

Qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyTM was already a dream in itself for Toure, and one which he will be sharing with his younger brother, Yaya Toure Gnegnery. Now, all that is left for a family hat-trick is for youngest brother Ibrahim Kolo to start making a name for himself.

Source: Xinhua

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