• The two young men experienced winding paths before being the protagonists of the Elephants’ qualification for the semi-final of a home Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
• On Wednesday, the Elephants return to the majestic Alassane Ouattara Olympic stadium in Ebimpé, the venue where their African dream nearly died following a 4-0 thrashing by Equatorial Guinea.
Carefree, innovative, ambitious and above all, all full of talent. Simon Adingra, 22, and Ouma Diakité, 20, represent the next generation of Ivorian football.
The two young men experienced winding paths before being the protagonists of the Elephants’ qualification for the semi-final of a home Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Standing 1.75 metres tall, Adingra had a difficult journey before becoming a footballer.
“I’ve had some difficult times, and that has shaped my character. I remember the day an “agent” came to my house because he wanted to recruit me to go to an academy in Benin. With nine other boys, we went to this country except that the academy in question did not exist. The crook left with our money, and we found ourselves on the street. I had to take on odd jobs to meet my needs,” he says.
“When I think of everything I have experienced, I must give the best of myself, for my country, my family, especially to honour my father who is no longer with us and who always encouraged us to go this direction,” he explains.
Entering the quarterfinal match against Mali in the 86th minute, the right winger conditioned himself to be decisive and alert.
“I told myself that I was going to have an opportunity and that it was up to me to seize it. And yes, I am lucky. I can tell you that it was, as an individual, one of my biggest emotions as a footballer. My heart was beating a thousand miles an hour,” admitted Adingra.
Another rising star is of course. Like Adingra, Diakité, the Elephants’ number 14, came into play during the second period of the match against the Eagles.
Active on the left flank, the native of Bingerville wasted no time in getting noticed. First by receiving a yellow card then by scoring the winning goal on a play initiated by Adingra, before being, unfortunately, sent off.
“My joy was so great that I forgot that I had a yellow card. My mistake. I couldn’t play the half, but I don’t think it will hurt my team because we have the depth, and even if I’m not there, we’ll be able to do the job,” said Diakité.
To be the Cote d’Ivoire hero, Diakité imagined it for a long time and even dreamt of it.
“It’s an inexplicable feeling. During my training at ASEC, I began training as an engineer. Even though I was thriving in football, I needed to secure my life in a certain way. Because everything moves very quickly in this world,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Elephants return to the majestic Alassane Ouattara Olympic stadium in Ebimpé, the venue where their African dream nearly died following a 4-0 thrashing by Equatorial Guinea. They will be hoping to erase that memory when they face DR Congo.