Kouassi is grounded with plenty of parental guid­ance

Ivo­rian re­veals mother has joined him in Glas­gow and is nur­tur­ing Celtic ca­reer

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP - MATTHEW LINDSAY

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.”

Pic­ture: SNS

MAK­ING HIM­SELF AT HOME: New Celtic sign­ing Eboue Kouassi poses with his No.88 shirt.

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