Ivorian legend Laurent Pokou Dies Aged 69

Laurent Pokou will be remembered as one of Ivory Coast's finest players of all time

Pokou, who died in Abidjan on Sunday aged 69 after a long period of illness, took just two tournaments to set the record of 14 goals – six goals in the 1968 finals in Ethiopia where the Elephants finished third and eight in 1970 in the tournament in Sudan where the Ivorians were fourth.

It stood until 2008 when Samuel Eto’o passed it, albeit when the Cameroonian was competing in his fifth Nations Cup finals.

But Pokou’s five-goal haul for Ivory Coast against Ethiopia in Khartoum on 10 February, 1970 in the group phase of the finals remains a record for the most in a single Nations Cup finals game.

Pokou was only 19 when the Ivorians first picked him for their national team.

He came from the Treichville slum of Abidjan but first played at USFAN in Bouake before going to ASEC Abidjan, where he would win six championships.

The goals at the continental championship saw him finish runner-up behind Salif Keita in the first African Footballer of the Year award in 1970 (at that time organised by France Football magazine).

His form also set him up for an inevitable transfer to France where he quickly became an idol at Stade Rennes.

Pokou scored 52 goals in 82 games in two spells with the club. In between he went for a spell at Nancy when Rennes fell into financial difficulty and had a young Michel Platini as a team-mate. Rennes supporters helped raised the 70,000 (French franc) transfer fee to take him back to the club.

Pele, at that time, called Pokou “my successor” but added “there’s only one fault, he is not Brazilian”.

Pokou was third in the polling for 1973 African Footballer of the Year, just a handful of votes behind the TP Mazembe duo of Tshimen Bwanga and Mwamba Kazadi.

But his career in France came to an abrupt end in 1978 after an attack on a referee that earned him a two-year ban, reduced on appeal to six months.

It came in a cup match against amateur opposition and after he had been sent off for protesting against some officiating. Pokou kicked at the referee in frustration and brought an abrupt end to his time in France.

ASEC paid Rennes for the remainder of his contract and Pokou returned home and also to the Ivorian national side, competing at the age of 33 in the 1980 Nations Cup finals in Nigeria.

After his playing career ended he had a brief spell on the ASEC bench as coach but later went into the textile business and also worked at the Ivorian Football Federation.

He would become a regular attendee at Nations Cup tournaments, a guest of either the Confederation of African Football or the Ivorian federation.

But he was no fan of the modern game.

“Instinct has deserted football. Now when you score a goal, you try too much to defend your advantage. There is not enough creativity,” he said in an interview after Eto’o broke his goalscoring record.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.