As far as most who watch the game on a regular basis are concerned, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure is one of the best midfielders in soccer.
The Ivorian has a brilliant combination of power, precision, touch, and stamina that helps him succeed in just about any role a midfielder can find himself in.
But according to the 30-year-old himself, there are many around the sport of soccer who still view Africans as, in his words, “animals not human beings.”
City teammate Samir Nasri said last month that Toure would be considered the best midfielder in the world were he not African:
“If he wasn’t African everyone will say he’s the best midfielder in the world,” Nasri told the media following the Carling Cup victory. I might be a bit biased because he’s my friend, but for me he’s in the top three midfielders in the world. Of course it counts against him being from Ivory Coast. If he was Argentinian or Brazilian everyone will talk about him, everyone. You have some Brazilians or Argentinians, I don’t want to say anything wrong, but just because they are from this country you pay £40 million or £50 million for them. A guy like Yaya, he’s won every trophy, he is always there. Tell me one defensive midfielder who can go forward like him who can score 16 or 17 goals in a season?”
Reacting, the conversation’s subject agreed. “I think what Samir was saying was definitely true,” Toure told BBC World News’s Football Focus.
He pointed mainly to the media, criticizing those covering the game for not giving him the proper focus. “If we play well and we don’t have the recognition from the media, we are not going to be where we want to be,” Toure said, conceding he’s at the mercy of the media to grow his name recognition.
Toure also echoed Nasri’s sentiment about South Americans, specifically pointing to four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. “If you go to any part of Africa now, people will say, ‘yes, we know him [Messi]’, but when you come to Europe and say ‘Yaya Toure’ people will say, ‘who is that?’ Some will say they know my name but not know my face. But they will know Messi’s face.”
He went on to describe the enormous contributions his fellow Africans have brought to the game, mentioning the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, and the only African to win the Ballon d’Or, George Weah. “I am very proud to be African, I want to defend African people and I want to show to the world that African players can be as good as the Europeans and South Americans.”
He also said he believed those players felt equally disappointed not to get the world recognition they deserve.
It also may have partially to do with his position. No matter how many goals he scores (unless he goes absolutely bonkers), strikers will almost always get the biggest fan following – and with it, the most media coverage and hype. Only one goalkeeper, and four defenders have ever won the Ballon d’Or, and despite the goals tally, Toure isn’t an attacking-minded midfielder.
Do you agree that Toure’s is being prevented from reaching the individual pinnacle achievements of the game because he is of African decent?