Known for his versatility and power on the field, professional footballer Yaya Touré has made a pretty big name for himself in recent years. The African Footballer of the Year three years in a row (2011, 2012, and 2013), the Manchester City player is popular among European football fans and Ivorians back home. Touré has been an integral part of the Côte d’Ivoire national team for nearly a decade. But beyond his phenomenal playing ability, here are 10 things you didn’t know about footballer Yaya Touré.
Touré got his first pair of football shoes at the age of 10:
A natural talent
, he played football with friends and family in the streets of Abidjan from a young age. He soon followed in his older brother Kolo’s footsteps to become a key player for the local youth team, ASEC Mimosas.
He is a practicing Muslim:
Frequently named Man of the Match during his time in the Premier League, Touré has turned down the English tradition of champagne after league games in accordance with his religious beliefs.
He almost joined Arsenal in 2003:
While playing for the Belgian team, Beveren, Touré trialed with Arsenal in 2003. While the manager was interested in signing him, he had difficulties getting a work permit to play in England. Rather than waiting, Touré took a contract with the Ukrainian team Metalurh Donetsk instead, where he played for more than a year.
Both of his brothers are professional:
footballers Most are familiar with older brother Kolo Touré, Yaya’s teammate both on the Côte d’Ivoire national team and Manchester City, before Kolo was transferred to Liverpool in 2013. Few may be able to name Yaya’s younger brother, Ibrahim Touré, however, who plays for Al-Safa Sporting Club in Lebanon.
He’s been known to give PUMA equipment to children in West Africa:
A spokesman for the athletic company Puma, Yaya has never forgotten his roots and frequently donates gear to children in need back in Côte d’Ivoire and other countries in West Africa
, among his other charitable endeavors.
He clashed with AS Monaco manager, László Bölöni:
When Yaya moved to play for the French Ligue 1 side AS Monaco in 2006, he initially had issues with the manager, László Bölöni. Bölöni wouldn’t put Touré at the midfield position where he had played the majority of his career and proven himself. He was sacked in the middle of the season as Monaco was performing poorly.
He is one of the few midfielders to win African Footballer of the Year:
Before Yaya’s first African Footballer of the Year award in 2011, the previous 12 years’ awards had gone to African forwards. As forwards receive more scoring opportunities, they occupy higher-profile positions on the field and receive recognition more often.
He has a history of being targeted by racist mobs:
Yaya has commented several times on his love of playing football in England, where racist mobs targeting black players is a rare occurrence. The worst incidents occurred while he was playing in Portugal and Moscow.
Touré is known for staying behind after training each day:
A strong believer that practice makes perfect, Yaya stays behind after practice in order to continue to improve his free-kick technique in particular.
He is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Environment Program:
After joining a campaign against elephant poaching in October, Yaya was named a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. and helps to raise awareness about the problem, along with other environmental issues.