In the daily Fraternité Matin, a day after the historic meeting between Africa Sports and G.A.C in Bouaké (5-3), the headline read:
"Aliou Cissé, a star is born at Africa Sports."
With his four magical goals, this linky athlete (1.80m) with extraordinary top speed, also known as Sam Turray, will remain forever engraved in the Ivorian football history books.
At the end of this first encounter of the 1976-1977 football season, Mompeho Jean-Baptiste, formidable defender of the home team which included Kobinan Kouma, Zogbo Tapé Severain and Apessika Daniel confessed: "I didn't know this Cissé Aliou-Sam Turray but he showed us no breathing space".
To his credit, the Mvp trophy, league champion's trophy, winner of the national cup. With Sam Turray, Africa was at the top of the first division from 1976 to 1978. But then, he flew to Europe as suddenly as he had appeared in the national league, at a time when the Asec Mimosas-Africa Sports rivalry was reaching far beyond our borders.
These days, the enigmatic Guinean is enjoying a well-deserved retirement from football in France. Our reporters were able to meet him for one of the few interviews ever given to a media outlet, by arguably the most gifted and most popular foreign player the Ivorian league has ever known.
Ivorycoasttribune.com: Aliou Cissé, how are you?
Aliou Cissé: I am doing well as you can see. (laughs).
I.T: Are you alone in this cottage surrounded by pigeons?
A.C: Yes, the pigeons only come to those they can trust. For three months, they wouldn't come near me. The day one of them landed on my shoulder, the birds and I celebrated. I had just crossed another hurdle. Honestly, I was going through a dark time in my life. They gave me hope. Dirtying the garden but never the inside of the building.
You know, when France Inter approached me, I wasn't interested. I knew my Ivorian brothers would come one day. And here you are.
Before we get to the bottom of things, I have a moral obligation to give you some vital information. My real name is Mady Touré.
I.T: Oh, yeah? our readers cannot wait for the lowdown.
A.C: Okay, I was born Mady Touré, in Guinea Conakry. After a brief stint with Hafia FC in Conakry and the Silly National of Guinea with the best of our generation, the late Mory Koné, I emigrated to Sierra Leone where my older brother Sam lived.
There, I play for Blackpool, the national army team. So much so that all over the country songs were being written to the glory of this team. obviously, I was asked to play for the national team.
It all happened very quickly. The federation gave me a passport with my brother's nickname Sam, hence the combination Sam Touré (Sam Turray).
I.T: weren't you once also called Aliou Cisse?
A.C: It's even more incredible. With the Siérra Léonese national team, we stopped over Abidjan (on our way to Niger). Just by sheer chance, I met Mr Akran Jean Baptiste captain of Asec Mimosa outside the hotel Konankro in the neighbourhood of Marcory (he used to be at the hotel because foreign teams were lodging there when they were in transit). In my mind, I always wanted to move to Abidjan from what I was hearing on the radio. He asked me if I could come back to play for Asec after the international fixture.
I immediately accepted. At the time, our dream in Guinea was not to go to Europe... It was more like playing for one of the leading clubs in Abidjan. So I left Freetown by road via Liberia and a few days later I arrived in Abidjan at Le Plateau around 9:am. As agreed, I inquired and insisted that I was Mr Akran Jean Baptiste's guest. But it was impossible to find him.
Without any money, roaming the streets, I found myself by chance around 7 pm in the Treichville district where some Guinean friends recognized me. They were fans of Africa Sport, so it was natural that they introduced me to the "Oyé" officials through Sékou Coulibaly, a junior at the time who was on a training camp with the Ivory Coast team at the Sebroko Hotel. My friends convinced him to introduce me to President Guy Ayéna.
This is where things get stranger because the season had begun and the Football Association was no longer taking on new players. Once again my name was swapped to Alioune Cissé. Which Sékou Coulibaly had picked from the register of pupils at the private school run by one of his parents at the time.
Sekou and a certain Adrien, who worked at the FIF, had allegedly broken into the offices of the headquarters one night to falsify all the registers. Alioune Cissé's licence was approved that night by these two. That student from a private college in Treichville must have wondered why his name had become so popular at the time in the country.
I became Alioune Cissé (wrote Aliou Cissé in the local press) in Côte d'Ivoire, after a try out in a friendly match at the "Parc des Sports" stadium. I don't remember the score of that fixture or the opposing team but get this, I played in jeans shorts and a pair of tennis shoes.
Africa didn't have enough equipment, let alone a brand new one for a rooky like me. The next day, we went to a Lebanese shopkeeper to buy new football kits.
I would like to appeal to young people who aspire to a career. Don't get caught up in age or identity tricks. I was young and talented. Everyone did everything they could to have me on their team, but it is not worth it. I was suspended for three months and that cost us the African championship against "Silures de Bobo". I couldn't help the team.
When I was summoned by the Ivorian Football Association at an inquest to find out which of Alioune Cisse or Sam Turray was my true identity, Africa's instruction was to keep quiet. And that is what I did. The funniest thing in this whole saga is: I was neither.
I took advantage of my suspension to go back to Guinea to recover my birth certificate with my mother. I kept it in a safe place because I now had an identity. Once in France, I fixed all this mess. It was rotting my existence.
I.T: What happened to Akran in this whole story?
A.C: It's sad but I never got to talk about it with Mr Akran Jean Baptiste. The rivalry between Africa and Asec was such that the two teams once travelled aboard the same aircraft for a charity fixture in early 1976-1977. We were going to Odienné for the Lamine Diabaté Cup. I was forbidden to speak to him. I played against Akran that day, substituting for Gnaléko Casimir and I scored the only goal of the match.
I learned recently, 40 years later, that upon our return around midnight Mr Akran and then, State Minister M'bahia Blé Kouadio went to my place of residence, pleading with Sékou Koulibaly to convince me to join Asec Mimosas with a 3000.000F CFA offer, just for his help. Sekou and I were roommates but he never told me. I still regret not having been able to talk to Akran.
You know, Sekou Coulibaly is Mr Africa. for such a young man in 1976, he refused an offer of 3 million from a minister because he loved Africa. Curiously enough, all the foreigners who played for Africa stayed with little Sékou. He has remained friends with all these great players, including Georges Wéah, the current President of Liberia. He is a man of integrity.
Another regret is not being able to marry a Bété woman from Gagnoa (laughs). It was through my team-mate Lébry Manahoua that I discovered these Ivorian beauties. You know, despite our efforts at the time, all we got in return was glory and beautiful women. Today, our children are very rich thanks to football. There's also the singer Nayanka Belle, whom I admired a lot, but I was already in France when she became successful.
I.T.: How's life after football?
A.C.: after my short professional career. I was a player-coach at Colgate-Palmolive with a job in the company because it would have been too expensive to pay me as a professional. Since then... I retired. I'm a father of six, one of whom is still active in pro-football. (Larsen Touré, former Guinean international). I have four granddaughters.
I.T.: Are you living in a golden retirement?
A.C: I would say that I don't regret having moved to professional football. Especially now that I know, some of my peers who did not dare to leave or who were prevented from doing so, unfortunately, died in deplorable conditions. And yet they used to rock stadiums every Sunday. These boys gave everything to their nation and their clubs. Lébry Jerome had concluded his trial at Bordeaux. He was refused the exit letter from Africa and the rest is history.
I'll take the opportunity to remind people of former stars, now neglected by their countries. This is not only limited to Côte d'Ivoire which is I must admit, one of the rarest countries in Africa to try to reward these worthy patriots who have carried high the flag of their respective nations.
Africa suffers from this problem. At home in Guinea, rare gems such as Amara Touré, Bengali Sylla, Papa Camara, Mory Koné, N'jo Lea ...,died without honours, but some are still with us and deserve national recognition before it is too late. These people have families to feed.
The likes of Ousmane Bangoura Eusobio and Moussa Suler; they are still around. It's time for Guinea to recognize their worth. The elders from Hafia, Kaloum, Horoya, the Syli National, should not be forgotten. All over Africa, let us have the courage to help our former champions.
You see, Bruno Belone in France. He had lost everything. He was homeless. But the nation took him off the streets for services rendered. We need that kind of strong action back home.