Boubacar ‘Copa’ Barry is one of the real stars of Belgian football, admired for his saves, positive attitude, and high energy. Receiving his award for best keeper in the 2009 Belgian championship, he was reduced to tears, dedicating the trophy to the victims of the tragedy that took place ahead of the Côte d’Ivoire-Malawi game in Abidjan.
The only reason that Boubacar pulled on the goalkeeper’s gloves in the first place was to get into the acclaimed ASEC Abidjan academy. After starting off in the juniors at Adjame's Stella Club - another fertile source of players for the Elephants - Jean-Marc Guillou spotted his talents between the posts. Things then began to move very fast for the boy who used to spend hours playing street football.
During a tour of France, he was spotted by Stade Rennais, and the French club later offered him an amateur licence. After a season in the reserves and the lower leagues, the young keeper signed a professional contract with the Breton club, but a lack of action led to a loan spell at Belgian outfit Beveren. Playing alongside his Ivorian team-mates at the Flemish club, he was ranked Belgium’s second-best keeper and reached the finals of the Belgian Cup in 2004. Beveren were impressed, so he stayed on rather than returning to France to play understudy to Petr Cech.
In 2006, Henri Michel made him his second-choice keeper at the FIFA World Cup™, and he has been a part of every campaign since. As undisputed first choice in the qualifiers this time around, Barry, who has kept goal for Lokeren since 2007, played 11 matches and 990 minutes of football. Only Emmanuel Eboué and Didier Zokora can boast more time on the pitch on the road to Côte d’Ivoire’s second FIFA World Cup.