Gervais Yao Kouassi. Amidst the Drogbas and Kalous and Toures of the Côte d’Ivoire setup, the pacy, skilful 23-year-old better known as Gervinho is the forward no-one seems to talk about. Criminally underused by Sven Goran Eriksson at the 2010 World Cup, Gervinho didn’t complete a single game in South Africa despite being Ivory Coast’s most dynamic attacker whenever he played.
In France, where he plays for Lille OSC, Gervinho is better known. A winger-cum-striker who is equally adept leading the line upfront or bursting down the flanks from a wide position, Gervinho scored 13 goals in 32 games for the northern French outfit in his debut season for the club following a move from Le Mans in 2009. Ahead of a new season with his club Just Football caught up with Gervinho for a chat, after Ivory Coast’s 1-0 win over Italy in a friendly at Upton Park:
Beating Italy is quite a result. What does it mean for Côte d’Ivoire going forward?
“It’s a game that helps get us in condition for the qualifying games for the African Cup of Nations 2012 that are coming up. We played as a team, we knew how to impose our own game, and we did very well this evening.”
Has it been difficult preparing without a permanent coach?
“Yes, but it’s down to us, the players, to match up to the challenges that come up. We’ve had a coach for a few days (Francois Zahoui) and we’ve shown what sort of team we are, we made our style work on the pitch and from that we’ve managed to get a good result.”
There’s not been much transfer window action in France this summer. Could this work in favour of a medium-sized club like Lille?
“The transfer market is a bit unusual this year, like it is in a lot of countries. It’s tough for the clubs and for the players too. But it’s an opportunity for us (Lille) to take.”
What are you expecting from the coming season personally?
“I hope to have a good season again, and to be part of key moments for the team like I was last year. We have to concentrate on getting in the top five, and after that we can look at going further still.”
Looking beyond that, do you see yourself leaving France in the future?
“For me, it’s always been a dream to play in a top-level league, whether that’s England or Spain. It would be a real pleasure to have offers from teams from those countries.”
Those offers are surely on the way. Your reputation has grown on the back of your performances at the World Cup….
“Whichever shirt I’m wearing and whichever competition I’m playing in, I give the best of myself. I played like I play with my club, without changing my approach, my attitude, my spirit, my style, and that’s what I do every time. With Lille or with the national team, I try to entertain the people who come to the stadium. I make the most of it.”
by Andy Brassell
(pic via AP Photo)