Ten years ago, Frederic Kanoute won the African Footballer of the Year award for his exploits with Mali and Sevilla, which resulted in him becoming one of Africa’s favourite sons. But what does it mean to him to represent Africa? He exclusively tells Soccer Laduma.
The towering striker may have been born and raised in France, but he decided to represent Mali instead – the country of his origin – despite having represented Les Bleus at youth level.
It was with “Les Aigles” were Kanoute swiftly became a household name in Africa, seeing him inspire Mali to the semi-finals of the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, and end as the tournament’s leading goalscorer. That wasn’t all.
That same year, Kanoute also lead Sevilla to UEFA Cup success, all while picking up domestic honours in the shape of the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup.
Nowadays, Kanoute can be found giving back to several communities in Africa, through his Kanoute Foundation and through his works with LaLiga as one of their ambassadors.
Speaking to Soccer Laduma’s Head of Social News, Rossella Marrai-Ricco, at a LaLiga Ambassador event in Madrid, the now 40-year-old revealed what it means to him to represent Africa.
“It was a pride for me to not only represent myself but Africa as a whole. I was lucky enough to win the African Ballon d’Or (CAF African Player of the Year) in 2007, and for me it was a special feeling. Even though I was raised in France, I always felt this connection with Africa,” he reveals.
“I go there [to Africa] two or three times a year… I have my activities over there, where I promote and help youth in football as well in Africa. I really believe in it.
“For me to represent LaLiga – the best league in the world – especially in Africa is a great experience for me. I wish to pass on the experience I gained in my career, to the world, in particular to young Africans who aspire to become young footballers or anything else.”
Browse the gallery above to view some of the most iconic Africans to have played in Spain.
Kanoute is one of only two Africans – Nigeria’s Mutiu Adepoju the other – who represent LaLiga in an ambassadorial role, and he is largely considered one of the last great Africans to have played in Spain, along with Samuel Eto’o.
What was your favourite memory of Kanoute when watching him play?