CF Montreal: Ismaël Koné, (young) man of great occasions

MONTREAL – Ismaël Koné scored the first goal of his professional career at the Olympic Stadium in a victory that allowed CF Montreal to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Sunday night, his very first goal at Stade Saputo was the decisive action that sent his team to the second round of the MLS playoff tournament.

When colleague Tristan D’Amours asked him if we should deduce that he had a gift for making a difference in important moments, the midfielder gave a mischievous smile.

“You could say yes,” he replied with a falsely shy air before moving on to a more serious reflection.

Eight months, almost to the day, passed between these two highlights of Koné’s career. A thin slice of life during which the young Quebecer was transformed before our eyes and with him the expectations generated by his increasingly frequent outbursts.

His success against Club Santos Laguna in February had aroused astonishment and curiosity. Who was this mysterious recruit, detected in a small local club and discreetly put under contract the previous summer?

Soon, the cat came out of the bag. A nice assist against Philadelphia. A two-point game in Atlanta. About ten minutes with the Canadian selection. The element of surprise eventually gave way to impatience, to the excitement of constantly fulfilled expectations. Nobody made the jump when Koné beat Orlando City SC goalkeeper Pedro Gallese in front of a cheering crowd. It is to this kind of episodes of brilliance that this nugget has accustomed us, which was courted by English clubs during the summer.

“He is incredible, praise Djordje Mihailovic. He has made great progress in the space of a year and I think he 100% deserves to play for Canada at the World Cup. He works hard, he has a good head on his shoulders in training and in games, you can see all his quality. He is full of confidence and is not afraid of any challenge. It’s really not given to all guys his age. »

Little pats on the back of the head

Off the field, the metamorphosis was just as striking. In front of the cameras, Koné has quietly come out of his shell and is now showing bigger and bigger samples of his personality. He jokes, he laughs, he teases, but can also demonstrate a generosity and a capacity for introspection that are not characteristic of all athletes of his age.

Oh! All is not rosy. Koné, like any of his peers, lacked consistency during this long marathon that is a season in MLS. He was also called to order in certain moments of bewilderment. During the last public practice before the game against Orlando, his coach did not hesitate to take a dislike to him in front of the rest of the group, not accepting to see him feel sorry for himself after a mistake.

« Confidence, humility… and from time to time a pat on the back of the head, » replied his Wilfried Nancy, with a smirk, when asked what differentiated the youngster he was managing at the start of the season from the one that he currently has on hand.

Most of the time, the boy has fun, it’s obvious.

In front of mom

Sunday’s match was all the more special for Koné as he played it in front of his mother, Suzanne Diomane, with whom he immigrated from the Ivory Coast when he was 7 years old. It was the second time, says Koné, that his mother attended one of his matches.

“Every time my mother comes, I score. I think I’m going to tell him to come to all my games, ”he laughed.

He said he was in discussion with his mother just before coming to fulfill his media obligations. “It was emotional a bit,” he added. We guess a proud mother in front of the accomplishments of the man who is becoming her only son.

“When I was 15, I told him I wanted to go pro. It’s hard for a mom to believe that her son is going to turn pro at 15. Today, I’m 20, but I signed at 19. The project is coming true. There are goals, offers to go to other clubs. There is evidence for her and she begins to believe it more. »

In a month, Ismaël Koné could represent his adopted country in one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. A few months later, he could make a living from his sport in a European country.

That’s good. The young man is at ease on special occasions.

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