Didier Drogba is, of course, Ivory Coasts’ most successful player of all time. Despite making his debut in the national side in 2002, at 24 years (!), Drogba gathered until now 84 matches and 53 goals, with more to come, as the African Nations’ Cup is still playing. But the numbers of Didier don’t interest us too much, but to make a comparison with a forgotten Ivorian hero: Laurent N’Dri Pokou.
Pokou didn’t won any trophy with Ivory Coast (neither did Drogba, as their only continental trophy came in 1992), but was top scorer of the African Nations Cup twice, in 1968 and 1970. In the first edition he netted six, but in 1970, the same year when Romania played at the World Cup, Laurent scored eight goals, from which five in a single game, the one in the group stage against Ethiopia. Ivory Coast had a victory and a defeat in the first two games and so they needed a win to ensure their qualification. So, after Lossenis’ opener in 16th minute, Pokou scored his first in the 21st minute. Until half time, the Ethiopians came one from behind, thanks to Menghistu Worku (also see his profile on my blog in the following days), but the second part of the encounter was a real disaster and probably the best match half from Laurents’ entire career. Four pieces (’60, ’71, ’80, ‘87) took the Elephants on the first place, but in the semis they met Ghana, which put them out of the competition with 2-1. Ivory Coast lost eventually the third place match as well, but Pokou scored the only goal of the losing side.
So, Pokou became the first ever player to win two titles of African Nation’s Cup top scorer and the only one, alongside with Yekini (Nigeria, 1992 and 1994) and Samuel Eto’o (Cameroun, 2006 and 2008), to win this distinction two editions in a row. In fact, Eto’o is the only player to score more goals at the African Nations’ Cup, then Pokou, with 18 pieces. Laurent only scored 14, but in this way he won a well deserved placed in the history of his native country. Although he was born in Abidjan, on 18th of October 1947, he has descendents from Eritrea, a country located on the east coast of Africa.
Apart from playing in his native town at ASEC Mimosas Abidjan, Pokou appeared for two teams from France: Stade Rennais (75 matches and 50 goals) and Nancy Lorraine (19 matches and 3 goals). At Rennais he remains one of the most beloved players, even though he didn’t manage to help the team to won a single trophy, apart from a promotion from the second division. His best performances were a few hat-tracks, from which only one in the first league: on 9th of November 1974, in a 5-1 win against RC Strasbourg, 10 months after his official debut (6th of January, in Troyes – Rennes). Still, he did won a France Cup in 1978, in his short spell from Nancy, where he was team mate with the young, future football star, Michel Platini. He returned after at Rennes, but he didn’t last but three months, because in December 1978 he aggress a referee and was initially suspended for two years. Eventually, his suspension reduced to six months, but by then he already decided to return at his home team from Abidjan.
At ASEC he obtained the rest of the trophies from his footbalistic career. Those are: three titles (1970, 1972 and 1973) and six cups (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973).