In Summary
  • Flanked by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a packed conference room, the Bouake-born midfielder faced the local and international press and immediately expressed his delight on his new appointment.
  • Giving his honest account of Kenyan soccer, the Manchester City midfield general paid glowing tribute to long term former Harambee Stars skipper and AC Ajaccio winger Dennis Oliech and Southampton’s holding midfielder Victor Wanyama.
  • Though no African team has made it to the World Cup semis, the former Barcelona midfielder believes that Africa can give a good account of herself in next year’s football show piece set for Brazil.

Yaya Toure is popular for his bursting speed, rocket shots and the indefatigable fighting spirit on the football pitch while donning either the sky blue Manchester City home colours or the orange kits for The Elephants of Ivory Coast.

However, on Tuesday at the UNEP headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, the towering 6ft 4inch midfielder temporarily put aside his football paraphernalia, the adoring fans are accustomed to seeing on their TV screens and swapped it with a dark navy blue suit, shiny black leather shoes, a white shirt and a light purple tie.

One could have been mistaken to think that the reigning African Footballer of the Year had swapped his football career for diplomacy. But not anytime soon. Instead, the giant box-to-box midfielder was in town to add yet another feather to his decorated career after he was officially installed as the UNEP goodwill ambassador to curb the rampant poaching in Africa.

HAPPY TO BE PART OF THE INITIATIVE

Flanked by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a packed conference room, the Bouake-born midfielder faced the local and international press and immediately expressed his delight on his new appointment.

“I am very happy and a very proud African to be here to help curb poaching and to use my celebrity status to curb Ivory trade,” he said.

Though camera shy, the 30-year-old midfielder was calm and tackled every question thrown his way with much precision and humility.

Asked about his stand on the rampant racism that dark skinned players have been subjected to across Europe, Toure took a more diplomatic tone, a far more toned down cry from the hard stance he taken a few days earlier when he put world governing soccer body - Fifa on notice, telling the Sepp Blater-led body to curb the menace or African countries will boycott the 2018 World Cup finals set for Russia-one of the most conservative societies in modern Europe.

“I would not like to dwell on that (racism) today. I hope an amicable solution will be reached and the responsible authorities will do what is required.”

The lanky midfielder grabbed international media headlines when he warned that Russia could face World Cup boycott by black players unless more is done to combat racist abuse last week.

His ire came in the backdrop of the ill-treatment he was subjected to at the at Khimki Arena last Wednesday as his side locked horns with Russia's CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League group stage match where he was subjected to monkey chants.

“It’s a real problem here (racism), something that happens all the time and of course they need to sort it out before the World Cup. Otherwise, if we are not confident coming to the World Cup in Russia, we don’t come,” the City midfielder is quoted as saying by UK's Daily Mail Online.

However, despite the humiliation he was subjected to in the Russia capital, Toure was upbeat and could afford some infectious smile and a roaring laughter.

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