Ligue 1 & Africa Cup of Nations star reveals he hid that he was a footballer – until family spotted him on TV
Ibrahima Kone now has a successful career at club and international level, but there was a period when his life as a professional footballer was kept a secret from his family.
Ligue 1 star and Africa Cup of Nations hotshot Ibrahima Kone has revealed his family only learned of his secret football career when they saw him on television.
The 22-year-old top scored for Mali at the most recent AFCON tournament as his country reached the last 16, with his trio of goals putting him level with player of the tournament Sadio Mane in the overall charts. However, when he was coming through the ranks at his local club, the youngster didn’t want his family knowing what he was up to.
He was largely successful, too, with even mentions on the radio failing to spoil his secret. However, when Kone played in a televised game, the jig was finally up.
When I was little, I had to hide the fact that I was playing because things weren’t going too well at school,” Kone told Breton newspaper Le Telegramme (via Get French Football News
“At the time, I lied, saying that I was going to school, when instead I was playing football,” he said. “A part of my family thought that I had fallen into crime.”
“Once my family heard my name on the radio. They figured that there might be a lot of people called Ibrahima. But when I started to play for the senior team at Club Olympique Bamako, where I was top scorer, they saw me on television”.
“Apart from my mother who had left to live in Guinea, and a few friends, no-one in my neighbourhood knew I played football,” Kone explained. “Even my brother, who wanted me to continue my studies, or my Dad who was always travelling as a trader, were not up to date.”
After leaving Bamako in 2018, Kone spent three seasons with Norwegian side Haugesund – including a loan spell in Turkey with Adana Demirspor – before joining Sarpsborg for the 2021 season. His 11 goals in his maiden season with the Eliteserien club earned him a move to France, and he netted on his Lorient debut to help them record an important victory over Lens before also scoring in victories over Brest and Clermont.
Kone’s three goals at the Africa Cup of Nations all came from the penalty spot, but were enough to see his country finish top of their group before suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Equatorial Guinea. He also netted five times in World Cup qualifying, including a hat-trick in a 5-0 victory over Kenya, and is part of the squad set to take on Tunisia over two legs for a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. If they succeed, it will be their first ever appearance at the finals.