Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday November 14 2006
If action is eloquence then Kolo Toure must be the poet laureat. In truth, I've had this article in the embers of my mind for a while now, but, to borrow hip hop terminology, I was looking for the correct time to 'drop it.' I was minded to produce it following the morale sappiing defeat to the Hammers last week, but mother time can be a prohibitive mistress! But following his sumptuous goal on sunday, in tandem with yet another man of the match performance (plus, no midweek fixture with which to occupy my burgeoning conscience), now appears the perfect time to propel this eulogy from the backburner and bring it to the boil.
Kolo, the 'Elastic Elephant.' A defender who harmoniously combines composure with kinesis. Part marauding stalwart, part gracile ballerina, technique and desire personnified gloriously in one composite body. The embodiment of molecular vibration. The English language simply does not possess sufficient synonyms to properly articulate the man's ability. For Kolo Abib Toure is the hallmark for consistency, that is not to say a solid seven out of ten performer as lesser lights are oft described. But the Ivorian is absolutely, persistently and resolutely incandescent in his defensive displays. Put in more plebien terms, he ALWAYS has a brilliant game.
Kolo arrived at Arsenal wet behind the ears, a player brimming with energy, but without the requisite discipline to utilise it. His initial performances for Arsenal saw him primordially slot into the left wing. Later he would nomadically drift to full back and central midfield, the ethereal cosmic gypsy. That is, until he found his raison d'etre in central defence. In March 2003, with Pascal Cygan sent from the field in a tight cup replay at Stamford Bridge, the Gunners clinging valiantly to a 2-1 lead, Kolo took up the reins, holding a ravenous Hasselbaink at bay with a luminous display. In the summer of 2003, with Martin Keown's legs creaking ever towards retirement, Mr. Wenger had a centre half conundrum. With promising starlet Philippe Senderos signed, then subsequently injured, Mr. Keown had some advice that demonstrated his sagacity. Keown suggested that the lad Toure partner a Sol Campbell at the peak of his powers, surrendering his position in the team for the greater good. Keown took it upon himself to mentor Kolo, and it is no great surprise that Kolo shares many of Keown's great attributes. His determined vivacity and gazelle like speed across the ground, the perennial coverer of arses. Kolo was Arsenal's lead campaigner in the great unbeaten season, clocking in more appearances than any other Arsenal player. With the twinned suns of Campbell and Keown smoothing his apprenticeship, Kolo's all action displays had become a staple of his game.
There is an old English proverb that says a smooth sea never made for a skilled mariner. Last season saw an escalation in Toure, Sol Campbell's ever spiralling decline, both psychological and physiological and Arsenal's dwindling domestic campaign saw a fateful raising of stakes. Suddenly Kolo was the senior member of a defence comprising of junior seaman, unsure of how to deflect the harsh waves of a storm swept sea. Toure stepped to the breach, marshalling his troops with the magnetism of a mythical apotheosis borrowed from Greek mythology. The resident Odysseus, Toure led his men homeward to record ten successive clean sheets in the Champions League and was instrumental in the last ditch salvage of fourth place.
This season has seen Toure take his mentor's number with great relish, a series of all action displays have left opposition strikers battle wearied. Carrying himself through the threshold of pain, Toure gave the proverbial finger to a calf strain to lead Arsenal to victory at Old Trafford, all the time grimacing in defiance through gritted teeth. The culmination of his glittering form came this Sunday past, perhaps the most impressive elucidation of his alacrity in keeping the allied threat of Crouch and Kuyt at bay. Followed by his 'charging through the midfield' centrepiece, latching onto a van Persie slide rule and nutmegging the hapless Jose Reina.
But Kolo is deserving of yet more pathosed superlatives. For he is the antithesis of the greed driven, celebrity obsessed modern day footballer. Kolo is the humble family man, a fiercely devoted father and husband. A devaut Muslim, Toure spurns photo shoots and product endorsements for prayer and dirty nappies. Toure pruports himself in a manner befitting of a professional footballer. Being a supporter is a unique experience, in that, while we are rigorously familiarised with our players, we rarely get an insight into their off field personas. (For example, it is often reported that Martin Keown is a really nice bloke!) But revealing snapshots can be interpreted, like the obscured haze of a photographic negative. It has become something of a tradition for the club's internal media to roast the newest acquisitions with a series of banal questions. Of course, the serial inquiry pursed on jounalistic lips, 'how are you settling in?' At this point, the new boy circumnavigates the question with a series of bland pleasantries. Yet something I notice is the unrelenting mention of one name, 'Yeah everyone's been really good to me and helped me out- especially Kolo Toure.' Armand Traore the latest to pay hommage in last Sunday's match day programme. Kolo ingratiates himself with all that chance his path, whether it be with the voracious zeal of his performances or the gentle warmth that permeates his character.
Unfortunately, given his lack of cupidity, the governing bodies do not see fit to award him with the lucrative honours he deserves. FIFA and UEFA instead choose to the lecherous advances of corporate pressure when nominating footballing noneties such as Lampard and Owen for decoration. But Mother Teresa once oppined, 'God does not require that you succeed, only that you try.' The way I see it, the deities are smiling on Toure's blessed shoulders. LD.
Date:Tuesday November 14 2006
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