Stars Orange Afcon 2013 : Seydou Keita: Mali’s Main Man
A veritable metronome of the Malian squad, Seydou Keita will be one of the stars to light up the African Nations Cup in South Africa next year with his talent and experience.
After many years of absence, Mali came back to the scene of African football to host one of the continent’s biggest soccer events, the African Nations Cup, in 2002. Since that date, they have been a regular at the competition skipping only the 2006 edition hosted by Egypt. And, they will answer present next year in South Africa after a brilliant 7-1 (on aggregate) qualification snatched at from the hands of Botswana. As in the last rendez-vous in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the Malian squad will have talisman, Seydou Keita, as the torch bearer of the team’s hopes of making it all the way to the top.
Seydou Keita, Eagles’ Main Man
Nursed at the Salif Keita Training Center, Seydoublen, as he is fondly called, started his international career in 2002 when his country hosted the Afcon Cup. Full of talent and energy, the 1999 player of the year at the U-20 World Cup has since then progressed by leaps and bounds. Today, as the captain and back bone of the Malian squad, he dictates the game plan and strike force of the team. His cold or sometimes even disconcerting look takes nothing away from his scoring efficiency. Peacemaker and patriot, the former FC Barcelona striker is the bearer of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a trophy-thirsty and disillusioned people
The Goal Merchant
Considered one of the best goal scorers of Africa and featuring among the serious contenders since 2002, Seydou Keita and his teammates have always failed to make a lasting mark. In 2002, they qualified for the semis after beating Algeria at the group stage and South Africa (2-0) at a quarter final game. At the semi final clash, Seydoublen and his teammates fell woefully (3-0) to a Cameroonian outfit despite the loud cheers from fans at home. With a heavy heart of disappointment, Mali could not secure even a bronze medal after losing again to Nigeria 1-0 in a classification game.
In 2004 in Tunisia Mali emerged top of their group after brushing Burkina Faso and Kenya aside and holding Senegal to a 1-1 draw. The Malians qualified for the second time in a row when they out played Guinea 2-1. And, once again, they were stung this time not by the Indomitable Lions but by the Atlas Lions of Morocco (4-0). As if in a nightmarish dream, Keita and his friends watched the Super Eagles tear them apart again.
Taking a break in 2006, the Eagles came back in 2008 in Ghana but they put up a poor performance. After playing second fiddle to Nigeria at the end of the group stage, Mali progressed to the quarter finals only to be white washed 3-0 by Didier Drogba’s Cote d’Ivoire.
The disappointment was even greater two years later in Angola. After an epic battle against the host nation (4-4), the Malian squad slipped 1-0 to their Algerian counterparts. Their third and last group game was a useless show of prowess for, despite their 3-1 triumph over Malawi, Seydou Keita’s Mali were forced to pack their bags. The huge disappointment forced Frédéric Kanouté and Seydou Keita decided to bow out of international football.
In the absence of these heavyweights, the Malian side started their Afcon 2012 qualification campaign with a defeat from Cape Verde. Seeing their elimination from the race, the Malian government negotiated the return of Seydoublen into the national team. The deal paid off as Keita steered his team to pick a ticket for the Gabon and Equatorial Guinea showdown. With a 1-0 win over Guinea and a 2-0 defeat inflicted by Ghana, Mali owe their qualification to team captain, Keita who scored the two goals that helped secure the much needed three points from Botswana. In the quarter final battle against hosts, Gabon, it is again Seydoublen who emerged man of the match after the penalty shootout. The Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire forced the Malians out of the competition when Keita’s team lost by a marginal 1-0. However, the Eagles pulled the feat this time as they clinched the bronze medal at the end of a classification against Ghana (2-0).
Breaking the Deadlock
In short, Keita has fallen at the door step of the trophy thrice in five Afcon Cup participations. One of the most decorated players of Africa with 16 titles, the native of Bamako has enough games in his thighs to break the perceived curse of trophy drought 41 years since the country’s last Afcon glory under the reign of his uncle and trainer Salif Keita. To this end, the soon-to-be 33 year-old Malian will have to face Ghana, Niger and DR Congo in three Group games. For the Dalian Aerbi striker, this will not be a problem as the China based player hopes to give in his all just to his country respected in the continent: “Football is a profession. Yes, it pays well and I hope to make some money in China. But that’s not the only reason for my going there. I want to be in fine form for I hate to be out of form. I am still ambitious. There is the Afcon 2013 and the World Cup 2014.” He told footmercato.
Seydou Kéita’s achievements
In the national team
-Mali 2002: 4th (6 matches, 1 goal)
-Tunisia 2004: 4th (4 matches)
-Ghana 2008: group stage (3 matches)
-Angola 2010: group stage (3 matches, 3 goals)
-Gabon – Equatorial Guinea: (6 matches, 1 goal)
At club level
-2009 World Clubs Cup winner with FC Barcelona:
-2009 and 2011 Europe Supercup winner with FC Barcelona
-2009, 2011 European Champions league winner with FC Barcelona
-Spanish Supercup: 2009, 2010, 2011 (FC Barcelona)
-Spanish Champion: 2009, 2010, 2011 (FC Barcelona)
-French Cup : 2002 (Lorient)
-Spanish Cup : 2009, 2012 (FC Barcelona)
-Finalist Spanish Cup: 2011 (FC Barcelona)
-Finalist Ligue 1 Cup:2002 (Lorient)
-1st match in D1 : Marseille – Troyes : 1-0 19/09/1999
Best player, FIFA U-20 World Cup, 1999
Member of the League 1 dream team during the 2006-2007 season
Second best League 1 player in the 2006-2007 season
2007 third best African player in the diaspora
Best la Liga player in the first half of the 2007-2008 season.