Connect to share and comment
Burkina Faso's improbable path to Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final has been guided by coach Paul Put off the field, and Charles Kabore on it.
Kabore will celebrate his 25th birthday here Saturday in his new-found role as captain preparing the Stallions for the biggest game of their lives against Nigeria.
Marseille's central midfielder has risen magnificently to the challenge in South Africa like a true soldier, proudly wearing the skipper's armband normally in the possession of striker Moumouni Dagano.
The shaven-headed star works in the Burkinabe engine room. Normally a defensive midfielder, Put has played him more forward at this competition, to great effect.
With a tireless work-rate, his assured touch has in no small part lifted the team to an historic first shot at being crowned kings of Africa.
Playing at his third Nations Cup, Kabore relishes his role as skipper.
"In the team I'm a leader. When I wear this Burkina top I have the feeling of confidence and invincibility," he says.
Kabore's confidence has filtered through to the rest of a team that turned up here among the rank outsiders after a winless run in the tournament stretching back 17 matches.
Kabore missed out on the opening 1-1 draw with Nigeria, returning for the 4-0 rout of Ethiopia.
He held on to his place and the captain's armband for the goalless stalemate that helped knocked out defending champions Zambia, the 1-0 extra-time quarter-final win over Togo and the penalty shoot-out defeat of Ghana.
Kabore's youth career began in Ouagadougou before catching the eye of French Ligue 2 outfit Libourne-Saint-Seurin in 2006.
His big break came in January 2008 when he signed for Marseille, where he made an immediate impact.
Now he finds himself leading the Burkinabe into battle at Soweto's Soccer City, an amazing achievement for the player who competed in Burkina's failed 2010 and 2012 campaigns.
"It's almost seven years that I've worn the Burkina shirt and that I've served my country. Practically all the action passes by me," he says.
Jonathan Pitroipa, who got the goal that send Togo packing, says Kabore's personality is not only felt on the field.
"Charles likes to make people laugh -- it's a good thing to have that sort of player so the team feels good about itself."
On Monday, Kabore will return to Marseille, but his time at the French south coast giants could be limited.
"It's possible he might leave, but it's also possible he could stay," said Marseille's sporting director Jose Anigo this week.
"The only market open to him is Russia -- a move is possible up to February 27.
"There is the possibility of him leaving if a club is interested in him, but let me say we still need him here, we will keep him with pleasure."