Elephants are a source of wonder and admiration everywhere. They are comfortably the biggest land-based animals of the modern era, and according to received wisdom, elephants never forget. Their reputation is one of relatively peaceful co-existence with their fellow species, but approach too close, and these descendants of the woolly mammoth can become extremely aggressive and dangerous.
For the last three years, a metaphorical example of the genus Elephantidae has been rampaging Europe, causing untold damage in Switzerland and now Russia – in opposition penalty areas. We’re talking about Seydou Doumbia, a current international for Côte d’Ivoire, whose national team is of course nicknamed Les Éléphants, or the Elephants.
The 23-year-old Doumbia left Kashiwa Reysol of Japan in summer 2008 for Swiss outfit Young Boys Bern, where he developed from a youngster with potential into a deadly goal-getter with a growing reputation around the continent. Doumbia finished Super League top scorer and was named Player of the Year twice in a row in his adopted country of the time.
Despite the acclaim and the accolades, the player has kept his feet firmly on the ground and, like a true elephant, has never forgotten his roots. "I’m aware that I’ve already travelled a very long road. I derive strength from thinking about my home and my past, and it helps me to do my job well every day. If you’re utterly determined to achieve something, one day your dreams can come true," the warm and likeable African exclusively told FIFA.com.
The player’s journey, which began on the streets of Yamoussoukro many years ago, picked up real pace for the first time in Switzerland. The switch to CSKA Moscow in July last year saw Doumbia open a new chapter in his personal story of success. The Ivorian contributed five goals in 11 matches in the latter half of the Russian season, helping the three-time champions to finish the 2010 Premjer Liga campaign in the runners-up position.
That was enough to earn CSKA a spot among the elite in the UEFA Champions League, where they entertain Serie A giants Inter Milan on Tuesday evening. The Italians will be wary of the potent African, as he marked his debut on the biggest European club stage with a brace against OSC Lille, both earning his club a valuable point and sending himself straight to the top of the competition’s scoring chart.
The year 2011 could hardly have gone any better for the player, as he is enjoying another prolific season in the Russian top flight and has scored 15 league goals in 23 appearances.
But true to his personality, Doumbia remains amazingly modest in the teeth of success, preferring to focus on the team spirit which has taken his club up to second spot in the standings: "I’m in good form, but I know I can play better than this. We’re doing very well as a team, and we just hope we can maintain our momentum."
With five games to go, CSKA are just two points off the lead, and retain a decent chance of a first domestic title since 2006. "We go out and play football because we want the title. That’s our stated goal. And personally, I want to finish top scorer," said the 5'10 in striker, making no secret of the Moscow club’s lofty ambitions.
If they succeed, it would represent a second trophy of the year for the west African and his club team-mates. In late May, Doumbia scored both his side’s goals as CSKA beat Alanai Vladikavkaz 2-1 to claim the Russian Cup. The goals just keep on coming for the Ivorian poacher, and he reckons to know the reason why too.
"I’ve yet to find the patent recipe for goalscoring. But I’ve always followed the tips and advice given me by my ‘big brother’ Didier Drogba, and of course I owe a great debt of thanks to my coaches," Doumbia explained.
Doumbia was a member of the Elephants’ squad alongside his idol Drogba for last summer’s 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa, where he made one appearance. Even now, some three and a half years after his first call-up to the Côte d’Ivoire squad, the striker considers it "a great pleasure and honour, being a member of the national team with such great players as Drogba, Toure and Gervinho".
The Elephants’ next major target is the CAF African Cup of Nations in 2012, where Doumbia and his team-mates are aiming to be crowned continental champions for the first time since 1992. "We’re clearly aiming to win the next Cup of Nations. We’ll try everything we know and we’ll give it our best shot, because we want to go back to our home country with the trophy," he confidently declared.
Before then, Doumbia’s focus is an explosive end to the season with the men from the Russian capital, thereby boosting his claim for a place in national boss Francois Zahoui’s squad. All in all, the player is thoroughly enjoying life in the east European mega-city, but Doumbia still has one specific problem.
"Moscow is a fantastic city, and you can have a wonderful life here. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a hair stylist worthy of the name, but I’m not really complaining,” grinned the man who has never been afraid to experiment with his haircut.
Any of our users who happen to know of a top-notch hair designer in Moscow should let the amiable Ivorian know at once. He’ll thank you and never forget you - but that’s the way it is with elephants.