Ibrahima Konate: Final in Paris, my home. I couldn’t dream of it ‘| Liverpool

IBrahima Konate left his home in Paris at the age of 14 and vowed not to return without becoming a professional footballer. Eight years later, a Champions League The final at the Stade de France marks homecoming.

enthusiasm Liverpool The defender doesn’t move away from the enormity of Saturday’s farewell to a fantastic first season with Jurgen Klopp’s side. “I think it will definitely be the greatest moment of my life,” says the 23-year-old. “I don’t have any kids yet so I can’t be sure but I think it will be the greatest moment. The Champions League final is in Paris, my home. If I tried I couldn’t dream of anything better. What a story: going to Paris, my hometown. My head, back to Liverpool with this trophy for a great celebration.”

Konate will enjoy a streak of victory regardless of the result against Real Madrid because Liverpool accepted an offer from city mayor Joan Anderson to celebrate it. FA cup And the Carabao Cup victories and Women’s ChampionshipIn town the next day. However, presenting the European Cup for the seventh time will give the occasion and the season even more allure.

Throughout the interview at the AXA Training Center in Liverpool, Konate’s head regularly heads toward the mosaic that dominates the wall to his right. The image is of Klopp’s back, holding the European Cup high in the front of the Liverpool bus during the 2019 cup parade. A quote from the Liverpool manager is also shown. “By being together at all times, we will be stronger and better and our successes sweeter,” the message reads. Konate was at RB Leipzig when Liverpool won their sixth European title, just a blink in Klopp’s eye to bolster his future defence, but the message and the image resonate.

Ibrahima Konate jumped to beat Southampton earlier this month.
Ibrahima Konate jumped to beat Southampton earlier this month. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

“I can’t stop looking at the trophy,” laughs the France Under-21 national team player, Signed after the club activated a penalty clause £36m last summer. “With this cup we talk about the games you watched on TV as a kid. until the [2018] ultimate I watched on TV against Madrid when they lost. It’s something that is really part of my history because I saw it with my own eyes. What it means is unspeakable – I don’t have the words to explain what it means to win huge prizes like this.

“The club wants to show that they are really a part of football history, and they want to continue to show that year after year. So when I think of the mantra of being together and having this history together, it goes beyond words, it goes beyond dreams.”

Konate was raised in a council estate in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. The Stade de France is less than 10 kilometers from there, but it felt a world away from the second youngest of eight children born to immigrants from Mali. He wanted to emulate the Brazilian Ronaldo and studied the striker for hours on YouTube, but that dream was shattered when the Paris FC youth coach advised the young striker to become a defensive midfielder. The teenager’s performance in this role attracted wide attention, and soon after turning fifteen, he moved over 400 kilometers to join Socho Academy. There the sporting midfielder with a fierce work ethic was transformed into a heartthrob, attracting the attention of Liverpool first and Klopp. It was also in Sochaux where Konate gained his first taste and until Saturday only from the Stade de France.

“I remember six years ago we went to the Stade de France to see Sochaux U19s in a final. It is unbelievable that I was watching a match at this level from the stands only a few years ago, it was my first time there, now I will be on the grass and playing there in a final The Champions League It’s really a journey.

“I played in cages like most young Parisians. We couldn’t see football in the right pitches, we didn’t have the money. We didn’t play on the right pitches, because we didn’t have those opportunities. But we found ways to play football whenever and wherever we could. At school we used Sellotape and paper to make footballs to play with, and we were happy to play in the streets. If it was a ball made of sponge, leather or plastic, it would keep us busy all day. We were playing on the street, in cages, me and my brothers, which is why I think we have these qualities.”

Liverpool “excited to win” after losing the Champions League to Real Madrid 2018 – video

Konate established himself immediately and impressively at Liverpool, although Joël Matip’s polished level and Champions League experience provided a fierce competition for a key role alongside Virgil van Dijk on Saturday. But Konate has a proud record of promoting his case for inclusion. In 28 games with Liverpool this season, he has not tasted defeat. His career of 23 wins, including penalties, and five draws is Liverpool’s longest unbeaten start. He has not lost a league game he started since Borussia Dortmund’s victory over Leipzig on January 19, 2019. He has come a long way off the streets of Paris.

“My dream at the time was simply to be a professional football player,” Konate says. “When I was 14, I had no idea of ​​being at a big club. If someone asked me at what age you could play for Liverpool I would have said 28, 29. At that time the dream was to play professionally. I couldn’t think beyond So “. And now? “To be, one day, the best central defender in the world. And winning all the titles goes on. Everyone.”