Globetrotter Bance aims to make final dance
Burkina Faso striker wants to go one better than 2013 by winning the ANC
With his giant frame and his instantly recognisable hairstyle, it is hard to miss Aristide Bance, the man who fired Burkina Faso into the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup (ANC).
And yet it has been a case of blink and you might miss him when it comes to his club career, which has seen the 32-year-old turn out for sides in a dozen different countries.
The player who came off the bench in Saturday's quarter-final in Libreville against Tunisia and fired his side into tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) last-four tie against Egypt is a veritable globetrotter.
Even he has lost count of the number of clubs he has played for, but a glance at his CV shows spells in the Ivory Coast, Latvia, Germany, Dubai, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, among others.
"Twelve clubs, something like that. I have travelled a bit. I have a lot of experience," the man with the blonde mohawk said.
In fact it is closer to 20 clubs in 12 different countries for a player who was born in the Ivory Coast, but fled to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, at the height of the Ivorian civil war in 2002.
After several months spent at local club Santos, Bance took off for Europe, joining Lokeren in Belgium, the first on a whistle-stop footballing tour of the world.
"There are some countries where I didn't have much luck. When I went to Dubai, at the beginning, everything went well," he said.
"After four months, I started to have problems with my pay. When the club stop paying you, it's a way of saying you are no longer in the coach's plans, so I had real problems there.
"I went to Finland (HJK Helsinki) to play in the Europa League and, in Latvia, they were very professional too. I got paid there. I was already used to the cold after a spell in Ukraine," added Bance, who has particularly happy memories of his time spent in Germany with Mainz.
His most recent move, from Riga back to Africa with Ivory Coast club ASEC Abidjan, had a more practical explanation to it.
"In Latvia, the season does not start again until March. For me, the most important thing was to play."
He says he masters English enough to get by wherever he might be, from Samsunspor in Turkey to Irtysh Pavlodar in Kazakhstan.
"When you're on the pitch, there are no languages," he said.
When the ANC finishes, Bance will have to consider his next move and his starring cameo role in the 2-0 win over Tunisia will have shown clubs that he still has plenty to offer.
He is dreaming of a repeat of 2013, when he played in the Burkina Faso side who made it to the ANC final, although they lost 1-0 to Nigeria.
"In 2013, we got to the final but didn't win the Cup. We must do better this time," he said.
The striker though, will find Egyptian talisman Essam El Hadary a tough nut to crack.
Egypt are the only team yet to concede a goal in this tournament and much credit for that goes to their goalkeeper, who, at 44, became the oldest footballer to play in the competition.
"He is first onto the training field and the last to leave," said Argentina-born Egypt coach Hector Cuper, in admiration of an Egyptian chasing a fifth ANC winners' medal.
El Hadary was part of the squad who went to Burkina Faso 19 years ago and beat the hosts 2-0 in the semi-finals en route to lifting the trophy.
Morocco did give the veteran shot-stopper moments of severe anxiety from crosses during their 1-0 quarter-final loss to Egypt - a fact that will not have gone unnoticed by Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte.
"We dream of doing better than in 2013," the Portuguese handler said, referring to Burkina Faso's giant-killing run then.
"My team are capable of producing fantastic football. There is quality and confidence among the boys."
Cameroon and Ghana, both four-time African champions, will meet on Friday morning in the second semi-final. - AFP