No African is creating more of a stir at present in the German Bundesliga than Aristide Bance. The Burkina Faso striker has notched an impressive four goals in eight league matches for his club 1. FSV Mainz 05 so far this term, playing a major part in the newly-promoted side's rise to sixth place in the table. As far as club football is concerned, things could hardly be going better for the happy-go-lucky 25-year-old.
On the international front, however, things have not been going quite to plan, with Burkina Faso out of the running for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. With just one game remaining in the final group phase, Les Etalons are four points behind leaders Côte d'Ivoire and can finish no higher than second. Nevertheless, the Mainz goal-getter feels that there are plenty of positives to take from his country's performances.
"I think it's very possible that Burkina Faso will be a successful football nation in the future. We have a lot of young lads playing in Europe such as Jonathan Pitroipa at Hamburg and Wilfried Sanou at FC Koln. With these youngsters we have a good side and plenty to build on," explained Bance in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "We'll just have to forget about qualifying for the World Cup this time round."
Of course the towering striker - who picked up the nickname 'Guinness' during his time in Belgium thanks to his dark skin and bleached-blonde hair - harbours some regret at not making it to the first FIFA World Cup finals on African soil. However, in light of the fact that Burkina Faso were up against such quality opposition as Côte d'Ivoire in African Zone Group E, Bance is has been able take the disappointment on the chin: "It wasn't really a target to make it to the World Cup, more of a dream. It really would've been a dream come true if we'd made it."
Future African giants?
The future of football in the country that is home to around 15 million is certainly looking rosy. Several talents from the West African nation have made the breakthrough into the top European leagues over the past few years, making Burkina Faso a nation to watch in the not-too-distant future. Bance agrees wholeheartedly: "I think we'll have a very good team in two years' time based on our potential. In fact, I'm certain of it."
For now, all eyes back home are on the CAF African Nations Cup 2010 in Angola. "Our primary goal is to make sure we qualify for the African Nations Cup and put in a good showing. Perhaps then we can start talking about World Cups," said Bance, indicating that his side need to take it step by step in their quest for the top. "Burkina Faso have never done particularly well in this tournament, so we want to qualify and play as well as we can at the finals."
Should Bance and Co indeed ruffle a few feathers in Angola, it would take a brave man to bet against them making it all the way to Brazil 2014 as well. By then, the current crop of fledgling talents will be reaching their prime and, with the likes of Pitroipa, Sanou and Bance at his disposal, coach Paulo Duarte is likely to be spoilt for choice.
For now though, his immediate focus is his club side and, if it were up to Bance, he would be heading up the Mainz frontline for many years to come: "The atmosphere in the stadium is fantastic and the people there are great. The fans come in their droves and always give us their full support," said the 1.92m marksman. "That always gives me the confidence I need to go out and perform on the pitch."