Who will captain the Elephants of Ivory Coast henceforth, after the retirement of legends Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure?
It had been a burning question and a gossip topic in the West African country for months but a solution seems to have been found on Tuesday ahead of the team’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Gabon.
Coach Marc Wilmots had opted to stick with the tradition by picking the most capped player to head the group, and that fell on former Chelsea man Salomon Kalou, but the winger declined the opportunity and let second in line Gervinho claim the coveted armband.
“I have no problem with Gervinho. I think he is the right person for now to lead the team and so he is our new captain. We have been friends since out football academy days. He is a good leader,” Kalou said in Abidjan on Tuesday.
The Elephants’ captaincy often sparked rifts in the team, mostly during the time of the golden generation, when Drogba and Yaya Toure were accused by the local media of indifference that harmed the unity of the outfit. Both players denied the existences of any cold war between them.
Gervinho returns after a long injury layoff which prevented him from participating in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Many had thought he would follow the likes of Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure and goalkeeper Copa Barry into international retirement after they won the 2015 Afcon.
“I returned to the team after my injury because the coach (Wilmots) came to visit me at my base in Europe and presented his project and vision for the team. I liked them and gave him my word.
“I want to help the young players integrate very well. I want to help the team qualify to the upcoming FIFA World Cup. I want the nation to love their dear national team once again,”
Gervinho, 30, joined the team in 2007 and has put up more than 80 appearances, scoring 22 goals. He currently plies his trade with Chinese side Hebei Chine Fortune.