Cup of Nations: A family affair
Footballing brothers have long been a feature in international football, and in 1930, when 13 countries assembled in Uruguay to contest the first-ever FIFA World Cup™, three of the teams had brothers, with Mexico claiming a pair of sets on their own.
This tradition has continued throughout the years and there have been FIFA World Cup-winning brothers like Fritz and Ottmar Walter, who won with Germany in 1954, or the Charlton brothers Jack and Bobby, who picked up a winners' medal 12 years later with England.
There have been several sets of twins, with the best known probably being the Van der Kerkhof brothers, Rene and Willy of the Netherlands, who twice ended up on the losing side in the FIFA World Cup Finals of 1974 and 1978.
The 28th CAF Africa Cup of Nations, which is being co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, is adding its own mark to the tradition with four sets of brothers taking part in the competition, and several other father and son combinations grabbing their share of the headlines.
Toure's set the pace
One of the tournament favourites, Côte d'Ivoire, have the Toure brothers, who are considered among the best brother pairings currently in football. Both Kolo and his younger brother Yaya play their club football for Manchester City in England's Premier League and are now looking towards bringing success to the west African country, who face Mali in the semi-final on Wednesday. They won the Ivorian league title as teenagers together, but nothing yet at Manchester City or at international level, as Kolo was serving a six-month suspension when the Blues won the FA Cup.
“It would be great to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament, for me and Yaya to win the African Nations together,” Kolo said. The defender said he enjoyed being on the pitch with his midfield-playing frere. “It's great to be playing in the same teams as my brother. It is also great to be part of the whole team, and I hope we win,” he said before the start of the tournament.
Kolo admitted that even though he is the older one, he often receives tips from his brother, who at the end of last year was crowned African Footballer of the Year. “I try to help him, but there's not a lot I can do – he helps me because he has more football experience. He won the Champions League and played with the best team in the world at Barcelona. I am having a great career and am happy for what has happened to me, but I look at my brother, and what he does in the football world at the moment is so great.”
Like father, like son
The Ayew brothers in the Ghana squad, Andre and Jordan, are attempting to follow in some very big footsteps. Their father, Abedi Pele, won the competition with Ghana in 1982 and has a second-place medal from 1992. Both brothers play for one of their pere's previous clubs, Olympique Marseille, with 20-year-old Jordan a striker, while Andre, 22, is a midfielder. They also have an older brother Abdul, who was in the Ghana squad at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations two years ago and at South Africa 2010, but failed to make Goran Stevanovic's squad this time around.
Andre, who scored the match-winning goal against Tunisia that took the Black Stars to the semi-finals, said that he enjoyed playing with his brother. “It's always a special feeling to play alongside Jordan,” he said. He added that he was disappointed that Abdul, who is just a year older, did not make the squad. “He is also a very good player, and I am sure he will be back.”
The Ayew family is not the only father-and-son combination at the tournament. After Gabonese forward Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang was the only player to miss a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out against Mali, the distraught rising star was helped off the field by Pierre Aubameyang, who is a former Panthers captain and was in the 1994 and 1996 Gabon squad at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Three sets remain, one at home
Zambian captain Christopher Katongo plays alongside his younger brother Felix in the Chipolopolo side. The Chinese-based Christopher plays in attack and has scored three goals already in the course of the tournament, while Felix, who is at domestic side Green Buffaloes, is a midfielder. The Zambians will go head-to-head squared with the Ayews in the other semi-final, which means three sets of brothers are alive at the Cup of Nations, but one – the Traore brothers of Burkina Faso – are watching the last four from home.
Sixteen-year-old Bertrand Traore, who enjoyed a lengthy trial with Chelsea's youth team last year, became the third-youngest player in the history of the competition to play at the finals when he was brought on in the Stallions' final group game. Like his older brother Alain, who plays for Auxerre, Bertrand is a midfielder. For him, being at the Nations Cup is all about learning. “I'm still learning a lot of things to improve on my game. Being part of the final squad was a great opportunity and to play my first game is another step for my career.”