Abu is a young football fanatic and filmmaker from Nairobi, Kenya. A man who is inspired by stories of unity within football, who wants to showcase how the game can be used to make positive changes, not only in Africa but also globally.
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ASEC Mimosas is the fertile crescent of African football. A place that has forged the best players from Africa since the glory days of Eusebio da Silva Ferreira and Roger Milla…
The long, swift tarmac road transforms into a rough patch of red soil and rocks that pave the way to a Spanish architecture inspired building with a huge signboard reading “Sol Beni”; ‘blessed soil’. At first one might feel lost, but the legendary Morry turns right to reveal the gates of where Sven Goran Ericson declared, “The academy is probably the most successful academy in the world”… the gates of ASEC MIMOSAS!
For over sixty years, ASEC, which translates to ‘Sporting association of business employees’, has continued to produce African football legends, including 2014 African Player of the Year, Yaya Toure. It was founded on January 1st 1948 by a collective of West African, Lebanese and French employees and has since worn the crown of Ivorian football the longest.
Upon entering ASEC MIMOSAS you are immediately made aware of why the facility is the dominant force in Ivorian football. Two, very well maintained grass pitches lay ready to shape up the next generation of great footballers! Close to the shore is a setup of futsal pitches. It is a place that cherishes its glorious history and does not miss an opportunity to make that known. All over the dormitories, a range of pictures from the very first people who joined the club to the recent shipment of top footballers from its academy are plastered on the walls. Dorm rooms are named after the more popular Ivoirians; the Toure brothers, Boubacar Barry, Aruna Dindane, Salomon Kalou, who serve as constant reminders to the children, that that is where all of them started.
Many of whom confirmed that the situation in Ivorian local football is not the same anymore. In the 80s and 90s, fan marches closed down streets and painted the entire town with their colors. Stadiums used to fill up with thousands of people who roared their teams to glory and equally shared the pain of defeat.
Defeat. A word not synonymous with ASEC during that period. The club holds the world record of an unbeaten team in a league season after going for one hundred and eight games without a single loss, between the years 1989 to 1994 which won them four league titles and three cups. They were a powerhouse unmatched by any other team in the region. To foster the momentum, in 1994, former French international Jean Marc Guillou and Mimosas’ president, Roger Ouegnin established the ‘crown jewel of African football’, Academie Mimosifcom and continued to shape the future of football in the country.
That’s what it reads on a bronze signboard at the entrance of the classrooms. Humility is one strong aspect that Mimosifcom instils into the children. They believe attitude, not just skills, is what will get you to higher levels of whatever you pursue, it is an essential to their football and not just a variable that can be overlooked. Evidently so in the 1999 African Super Cup competition where a completely revamped ASEC team with an age average of 19, which also included Kolo Toure in the starting eleven, thrashed Espérance de Tunis by three goals to nil, winning them the cup. A feat that only Ajax has managed to do in top level football competition.
The ambition of ASEC does not lie in the humility factor alone, it started back in 1954 when another French international, Guy Fabre, helped shape the philosophy that has carried the team and academy to the prime of the beautiful game! que les enfants s’amusent… en jouant au football, “May the children have fun by playing football”. A mantra that is embedded into the wooden stands at the training pitch and in the hearts of everyone at ASEC. It is the purest form of the sport that rallies the young football hopefuls to not only sharpen their skills, but love the game over and above all things!
The current deterioration of the game in the country affects every club. ASEC’s major source of capital to keep the institution running is on transfers. With the establishment of over 300 academies around Abidjan also working on shipping talent abroad, poses a limited number of options in attracting prospects without the promise of Europe. This leaves a huge vacuum in the local football scene.
“The glory days are coming back, though”, says one of their diehard fans who has been supporting the club for fifty years!
ASEC MIMOSAS is not simply a sporting association, it is a professional organization with the best facilities to foster progress in football, but more importantly, it is a home to the next generation of super footballers!