Ivory Coast legend Kolo Touré is one of the most popular figures in world football. His positive approach to life and sustained success over a career spanning spells at Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and most recently Celtic are part of his endearing qualities.
This is why WE LOVE Kolo Touré 😂 pic.twitter.com/rCJ7KhCWtD
— TRUE AFRICA (@_TRUEAfrica) April 18, 2017
He was a key member of Arsenal’s Invincibles in 2004, when they went the entire season unbeaten and he was a Premier League winner again at City in 2012.
This year he has emulated his Arsenal success with another unbeaten title success in Scotland for Celtic.
But the real footballing passion for the 36-year-old defender remains Ivory Coast, for whom he won 120 caps before retiring from international football in 2015, when he won the Africa Cup of Nations.
We have the quality to challenge any team if we get to the World Cup.
In this TRUE Africa special he discusses his childhood, his future, Wilfried Zaha and the current Ivory Coast side and how his brother Yaya Touré could be tempted out of international retirement to become the key man in what he hopes will be a World Cup winning side in Russia in 2018.
Ivory Coast are top of their World Cup qualifying group. What are their chances for the finals in Russia next summer?
They do well if they qualify because for three World Cups in a row we have been qualifying and that shows Ivory Coast football is now on another level. The players from there are amazing. We have Eboue here [his Celtic team-mate Eboue Kouassi] who is a good player [Eric] Baily at Manchester United.
Now you see Ivorian players everywhere in the world. That means we have the quality to challenge any team if we get to the World Cup.
What would World Cup success mean to you personally?
I believe in my country and I am thinking about doing something for the country and helping young players develop and be as good as they can be to win the World Cup one day. We need to start thinking, as African people, about winning the World Cup. I know it will be tough, but where there is a will, there is always a way.
I know people in England are not so happy, but for Ivory Coast it is one of the best things that can happen to our country’s team.
And I am dreaming about that every day and every night, it will be great for Africa to win the World Cup one day.
What do you make of Wilfried Zaha choosing to play for Ivory Coast ahead of England?
He is fantastic, a great player and I think he made a great decision. Nowadays to play for England is tough. There is so much great talent and the competition is really really tight. For Wilfried Zaha to play for Ivory Coast! He will be the next Didier Drogba! What he is doing now is great and he is playing amazing with other good players around him.
Maybe if [my brother] Yaya comes back for national team that can bring Ivory Coast to the next level.
It is a great choice [by Zaha]. We are really happy. I know people in England are not so happy, but for Ivory Coast it is one of the best things that can happen to our country’s team.
Do you really think Yaya will come out of international retirement?
I think Yaya can still play in one more World Cup. And I hope he will do it because he will make a big big impact for Ivory Coast and he can bring something to the young payers who need some influential players on the pitch and outside [help] as well.
Who is the better player between you and Yaya?
My brother is much better. He is a midfielder and I am a defender and I am very proud of what he is doing. He was once playing for a really low club and I was always talking about him and telling people about him when he was with Donetsk in Ukraine. I always told people he was better than me and now he has proved it and I am very happy for him.
In Africa, we have one thing that is common for every African player.
How did you start playing football?
In Africa, we have one thing that is common for every African player. As a kid we didn’t have PlayStation or games like that to keep us in the house. Most of time only one friend has a ball and there can be 15 to 20 of you who share the ball.
That is how I started and it was just a hobby to enjoy myself and I never thought about being a professional player as I wanted to enjoy myself.
Big fight between the Toure family.I want to hear the Toure song as loud as possible tomorrow.Let the best team win. pic.twitter.com/rEcOIQO0dM
— Kolo Toure (@KoloKolotoure28) February 27, 2016
My father wanted me just to go to school. In Africa when I was very young there was not a football academy so I was just playing in the street. It was tough and although my father wanted me maybe to be a lawyer my skill was in football.
I joined an academy quite late, at 15, and that is when the dream started for me.
What does the future hold for you?
I am happy where I am and will stay (at Celtic) if I get the chance, of course.
I am 36 and still love playing but think I still have a few years in my legs as I am winning in training every day. I have started coaching a little bit now and it is a different aspect of the game. I want to stay in the game as I like to talk, to share and for me it is natural. We are talking at the moment with the manager.
As a footballer it is difficult when you don’t have bad [injury] problems to stop. I love the game and want to carry on playing as I have been doing so for so long. Of course at my age I am also thinking of the next stage of my life. It is tough to get into this team and although I feel like I have a few years left, I am learning the coaching as well.