The Asec story: Africa’s top academy

Asec academy training

The red-earth track that leads to the entrance of Asec Mimosas’ training grounds doesn’t promise much. But here in one of the world’s least developed countries we’re a few metres from one of the world’s elite football academies. Built on reclaimed land beside a steamy lagoon, the Sol Beni centre in the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, looks more like a Spanish hotel complex than an African training centre – sprinklers keep the grass lush in tropical temperatures and a stifling humidity. But from this ‘blessed soil’ has come four of the five Ivorians that played in last season’s Champions’ league semi-final stages; Yaya Touré (FC Barcelona), Kolo Touré (then Arsenal, now Manchester City), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea) and Emmanuel Eboué (Arsenal). They form the backbone of a national side full of stars from Europe dubbed ‘Generation Drogba’ by the local press. This is the side singled out by England coach Fabio Capello and Spain/Barcelona’s Xavi as capable of causing an upset at the World Cup finals next year. “The Ivory Coast’s team is very good. And the tournament is in Africa, where the spirit is different”, warned Capello in September. In mid-November he skipped organising an England friendly to watch Ivory Coast draw 2-2 with Germany.

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