Kouassi is grounded with plenty of parental guidance
Ivorian reveals mother has joined him in Glasgow and is nurturing Celtic career
MOVING to a club as big as Celtic can be daunting for an experienced player, never mind a teenager from another continent with less than a season of first-team football behind him. But Eboue Kouassi, the Ivorian midfielder who has signed for the Parkhead club in a £2.8m transfer, is confident he can cope – thanks to his mother accompanying him to Glasgow.
The African player only turned 19 last month and has played fewer than 20 times in the senior game with Russian club Krasnodar.
However, he believes that being joined by his mum, who has been by his side since he left his homeland for Shirak in Armenia aged just 16 three years ago, in Scotland will enable him to settle.
“It’s difficult being so far from home and living in different countries, but it’s made less difficult as my mum Florence is always with me,” said Kouassi.
“She travels everywhere with me and lives with me and that makes things so much easier. She’s not here in Glasgow yet but she will be arriving soon. She’s a great cook and when I arrive home after training, the food is excellent.”
He added: “It’s also difficult for my family back home as dad Nester, brother Beranger and sister Maurette don’t have their mum with them.
“I’m very aware it’s such a huge sacrifice which she is making and she is basically leaving all of them behind to be with me and to make sure I am okay. She does play a significant role in the decisions which I make and where I play my football.
“There were offers from different clubs and when I go and speak to her she tells me, ‘You are my son, do the best you can for you as a footballer and I will pray for you’.
“It’s not easy for my brother or sister and it’s difficult for my dad as he’s on his own with the kids. My aunt, who is my mum’s sister, has been there to help out and make sure everything is okay.”
Kouassi had to wait to receive both a UK work permit and a travel visa from Moscow before he could complete his move to the Scottish champions.
He was then taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital shortly after arriving in Glasgow after showing mild symptoms of malaria.
But he has trained with Brendan Rodgers’ squad at Lennoxtown this week and is looking forward to getting his Celtic career up and running.
“Everything is fine just now,” he said. “I’ve started to train again and I feel really good. No problem. I was unafraid. I just felt quite tired, but I was not afraid. It’s okay.
“It has maybe set me back a little bit. It has delayed things a little. But I am not worried. I have started to train again, it’s going to take a bit of time. I’m happy and I am patient. There is no rush for games.”
Kouassi, who performed well for Krasnodar in the Europa League against Nice, Red Bull Salzburg and Schalke this season as they qualified for the knockout rounds, attracted the interest of several clubs all across Europe.
He revealed that the opportunity to work with Rodgers, the former Swansea City and Liverpool manager, was what convinced him to move to Celtic.
“It is probably one of the major influences,” he said. “He is not a small coach, he is a big coach. He has got a reputation and that was a major influence in my decision to come to Celtic.
“I have known of him for a long time and when I came here he told me that he saw me and he wanted me here. He told me that I work and I will succeed so it was all about my potential and if I work hard I will get somewhere.
“But Celtic is a big club, it’s got a lot of history, it’s a historic club. So it was a fairly obvious decision to come here.
“It’s an ambition to play in the Champions League. I have always dreamt about playing in the Champions League since I was a boy, so if it happens I will be really, really happy.
Kouassi’s compatriot Kolo Toure, the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool player who moved to Celtic last summer, also played a part in persuading the youngster, who has signed a four-year deal with the Scottish champions, to join.
“We spoke to each other,” he said. “He was very positive and basically told me to just come to Celtic, knowing that other teams were interested.”
Video footage of Kouassi in action on the internet is limited, but one clip which does exist shows him reacting furiously after getting red carded for head butting a rival player in a game against Gazovik Orenburg earlier this season. He stressed, though, that was a one-off incident and keeping his discipline is not a problem.
“It sums up my passion for the game rather than my character,” he said. “The situation was that we were leading then they caught up and scored again then I got the red card so there was a lot of things happening. It shows my passion rather than the negative side of my personality.”
MAKING HIMSELF AT HOME: New Celtic signing Eboue Kouassi poses with his No.88 shirt.