Augustin aiming for the stars

Guinea forward Augustin Bangoura is the only African player at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 to play his club football outside the continent. Now a member of Saint-Etienne’s training academy, the football-loving youngster, who is the son of a former government minister and army general, moved with his family to France in 2009 mainly to further his education.

As it turned out, however, he also took the opportunity to nurture his gift for the game he loves. It was not long before his talent was spotted, with the youngster joining an amateur club in Le Mans before catching the eye of Les Verts, where things have gone so well that he hopes to be signing a professional contract this year.

“It’s a definite motivation. I’ve come to the World Cup to get myself noticed, to attract offers,” he told FIFA.com on the steps of Guinea’s hotel in Coquimbo, as his team-mates filed past him and on to the bus that will take them to Vina del Mar for their final Group B match against Brazil.

Coming from France, Augustin was something of the odd man out in the Guinea squad, which had been formed following a national team trial two years ago. Recalling his early days in the Syli Cadet set-up, he said: “It was a bit difficult to begin with because they’d all been together for a while and they knew each other well. I was the little new boy.

“I joined up with them in Morocco, where I spent just the four days with them before setting off for the World Cup. It was a bit hard to fit in to start with, but as time’s gone by I’ve been able to settle in.”

Guinea coach Hamidou Camara nevertheless had good reason to bring a new face into the squad before taking off for Chile, as he himself explained as his players boarded the coach: “He’s a skilful player who’s strong and very intelligent with it. He’s got an excellent skill set and he’s used to playing in this kind of environment, with all these good pitches.

“All the Guinean players have got that basic technique, that innate ability to dribble with the ball, to play with it and feint,” added Camara. “What our boys don’t have though is that directness, that intent to go straight for goal. And that’s what Augustin has got. He’s a very good playmaker and having him here has really helped us. He’s mentally strong and he doesn’t argue. He knows what he wants and what to do, which is understandable when you consider that he’s seen the highest level from close up.”

A dream fulfilled Augustin is charting a similar career path to Saint-Etienne defender Florentin Pogba, who also grew up in France before being called up by Guinea. Now his country’s senior team captain, Pogba has taken his young compatriot under his wing and has been giving him the benefit of his experience.

“He told me to stay grounded,” said Augustin, who went on to list his footballing role models. “My two idols are Robinho and Ronaldinho. I love Robinho’s technique, his stepovers and passing game. The same goes for Ronaldinho, who’s the best player I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“It’s special for me to be playing Brazil in the World Cup. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” smiled the Saint-Etienne prodigy, who has played only a substitute’s role at Chile 2015 so far, coming on in the second half of the matches against England and Korea Republic.

Contemplating his side’s qualification hopes, he said: “I think we can get through against Brazil. We need to take our opportunities and stay solid at back to give ourselves the best possible chance of finishing second or among the best third-placed teams.”

Augustin knows a thing or two about charting a successful course, and he and his team-mates will be hoping to plot another one when they take on the Brazilians.