Libreville (AFP) – With his giant frame and his instantly recognisable hairstyle, it is hard to miss Aristide Bance, the man who fired Burkina Faso into the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.
And yet it has been a case of blink and you might miss him when it comes to his club career, which has seen the 32-year-old turn out for sides in a dozen different countries.
The player who came off the bench in Saturday’s quarter-final in Libreville against Tunisia and fired his side into a last-four tie against Egypt is a veritable globe-trotter.
In fact even he has lost count of the number of clubs he has played for, but a glance at his CV shows spells in the Ivory Coast, Latvia, Germany, Dubai, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, among others.
“Twelve clubs, something like that. I have travelled a bit. I have a lot of experience,” the man with the blonde mohawk told AFP.
In fact it is more like 20 clubs in 12 different countries for a player who was born in the Ivory Coast and moved to Ouagadougou in 2002, at the height of the Ivorian civil war.
It was, he admitted recently, a move made “to protect our lives”.
After several months spent at local club Santos, Bance took off for Europe, joining Lokeren in Belgium, the first on a whistle-stop footballing tour of the world.
“There are some countries where I didn’t have much luck. When I went to Dubai, at the beginning everything went well,” he said.
“After four months I started to have problems with my pay. When a club stops paying you, it’s a way of saying you are no longer in the coach’s plans, so I had real problems there.
“I went to Finland (HJK Helsinki) to play in the Europa League, and in Latvia they were very professional too. I got paid there. I was already used to the cold after a spell in Ukraine,” added Bance, who retains particularly happy memories of his time spent in Germany with Mainz.
His most recent move, from Riga back to Africa with ASEC Abidjan, had a more practical explanation to it.
“In Latvia the season does not start again until March. For me the most important thing was to play.”
He says he masters English enough to get by, wherever he might be, from Samsunspor in Turkey to Irtysh Pavlodar in Kazakhstan. Even if, for all the countries he has played in, he is not a great adventurer.
“I don’t need help when I’m in a shop. Otherwise, I don’t go out much. I am always at home. Training, home, training, back home…when you’re on the pitch there are no languages.”
After this weekend, when the Cup of Nations finishes, Bance will have to consider his next move, and his starring cameo role against Tunisia will have shown clubs that he still has plenty to offer.
But he had a word of caution.
“It is a thankless occupation. When you are playing, people look for you and see you everywhere. Agents want to contact you. But as soon as you’re not getting a game, no agents call,” he said.
For the moment, Bance is dreaming of a repeat of 2013, when he played in the Burkina Faso side that made it to the Cup of Nations final, although they lost 1-0 to Nigeria.
“In 2013 we got to the final and didn’t win the Cup. We must do better this time,” he said.
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