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Cissé: "The work is starting to bear fruit"

Interview

January 26, 2021

Cissé: "The work is starting to bear fruit"

Partners of OGC Nice since June 2018, RC Abidjan are continuing to grow. Côte d'Ivoire champions for the first time in their history last season, the capital club have in recent months played their first matches in the African Champions League. At the heart of an unprecedented season, shaken up by Covid-19 with the domestic league still halted, Souleymane Cissé, the founder and President of the Academy rounded up the club's news.

The year 2020 was particularly beautiful for RC Abidjan in sporting terms with the title and a first participation in the Champions League. Are you satisfied?

The work that has been done in recent years is starting to bear fruit. There has been acceleration with the organisation that has been put into place. We climbed into the second division where, after an adaptation season we were champions. The same thing in Ligue 1, where we finished 4th before becoming champions. This season in the African Champions League we played against clubs with experience of such matches and colossal resources. They were big tests for us and knocking out ASKO Kara was very good (2-2 over the two games). Then, against Horoya we were drawing before losing by the smallest of margins, conceding 2 goals from penalties without ever having been dominated. It's satisfying because we want to play good football and we want to train up our young players by playing in domestic and international competitions. The road is long and we don't want to blow our own trumpet as things move quickly in football.

How do you see the rest of the season given the league season is suspended and you have a Confederation Cup play-off to play against Pyramids FC?

We're playing the continental competition against the finalists of the last edition. It's not a present for us but it's very good, as these are great adventures for our young players in order for them to gain in maturity and in experience. Stopped in 2020 because of the health situation, the Côte d'Ivoire league hasn't started up again. We haven't played a single league match this season because of an electoral block concerning the presidency of the Ivorian football federation. It's really damaging to the clubs and the players are caught between a rock and a hard place… These are political problems, such as which happen too often on the continent. And it's not acceptable. We're still completely in the dark. A normalisation committee is working with the Federation on this subject. It's damaging to all of us because our youngsters aren't ready for competitive football. If we'd had the possibility of playing in the league then that might have changed things against Horoya.

The continental matches allow the young players to grow faster, with training players up and accompanying young players being at the heart of the RC Abidjan project.

I place the emphasis on that. I personally had the chance to benefit from French education, to earn money, and so it was important for me to give money and my time and to put into place structures in order to get children to school. We've developed young players who are now playing at various levels in the Ivorian league. The social and charitable union makes it an atypical structure in terms of what we see in Europe and in Africa. And in that way we also wanted to develop excellence. The two go together. The objective is to continue to accompany these young talents, to help the youngsters to have a healthy social life, through being in school, eating well, a roof over their heads, plus sporting and social education in order to produce young players for the Côte d'Ivoire national side, while also producing players for our partner clubs.

Recently, the Côte d'Ivoire Under-17s won the UFOA B tournament with several young players from the club featuring. It's a good example of the work that's being put in at RC Abidjan.

We also have young players in the Under-23s and the Under-20s. In the Under-17s there were 6 of them and they had a massive impact on the competition. We also have a young player who has been picked for the senior national side (Jean N'Guessan), and that's rare enough to require noting. We prepare our young players in order to provide players to our partner clubs, OGC Nice and Lausanne-Sport, but it's also very important for us to produce internationals for our country. It makes us very proud.

6 young RC Abidjan players won the UFOA B tournament with the Côte d'Ivoire Under-17s. From left to right: Bandaman Junior, Traoré, Seydou, Fofana Moses Junior, Konate Abdul Rahamane, Fofana Valy and Djire Abdoulaye

The cases of Thomas Trazié and Armel Zohouri, trained up at RC Abidjan and loaned this season to Lausanne-Sport by Nice, show that there are pathways between the 3 clubs. What is your view of it?

It's fantastic culturally speaking for our young players. Football is above all a human adventure and the fact that they have the chance to share their footballing and social culture is great. When you know that there are footballing qualities to be shared it is fantastic.

Having a partner club like OGC Nice is very very good for RC Abidjan. In Africa not everybody has that luck. In financial terms, OGC Nice help us embed the project. It's important because since 2006 it has only been OGC Nice's aid that has allowed us to move into another dimension. Their presence alongside us is massive for us.

Michel Saad