AFCON: Mali’s Adama Traoré – The TP Mazembe trampoline

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon

By Alexis Billebault

Posted on Friday, 14 January 2022 12:02
Mali's Adama "Malouda" Traore, right, jumps up to avoid a slide tackle by Tunisia's Bilel Ifa, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Tunisia and Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
Mali's Adama "Malouda" Traore, right, jumps up to avoid a slide tackle by Tunisia's Bilel Ifa, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Tunisia and Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Adama Traore of Mali, who now plays in Moldova, made his name during his long stay at TP Mazembe, from 2013 to 2018. The striker is also one of the big guns of his national team, which faces Mauritania on Sunday at the AFCON Africa Cup of Nations, held in Cameroon.

He has left nothing but fond memories of Lubumbashi, the Katanga stronghold of TP Mazembe, one of the best clubs in Africa. The 18-year-old Adama Traore left his hometown of Bamako and his club, Club Olympique Bamako, to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He stayed there for five years, a stay that allowed the striker to build a good reputation that opened the doors to Europe in 2018 and fill his trophy cabinet. During his long stay with the Crows, Traoré won almost everything: the Champions League (2015), the African Confederation Cup (2016 and 2017), the African Super Cup (2016) and the DRC league (2014, 2016 and 2017).

Brilliant at Mazembe…

Pamphile Mihayo, a historic player of the club before becoming its coach (he is now a member of the technical staff of Frenchman Franck Dumas, editor’s note), remembers the first steps of the young Malian recruit. “He was shy, reserved, he was discovering a new environment, and even if he could communicate in French with some Congolese players, Adama was lucky enough to be able to count on the presence of several of his compatriots, including Cheibane Traoré, Ousmane Cissé, Boubacar Diarra and especially Salif Coulibaly, who really took him under his wing.

The defender, seven years older than him and a mainstay of TP Mazembe, spends part of his time chaperoning his young teammate, and even extends a sense of hospitality to hosting him for several months at his home in Lusaka. “I think that was something very important for Traoré,” Mihayo says. “He quickly felt comfortable in his everyday life, and all he had to do was focus on football.”

At the start of his stay in DR Congo, where he was managed by Frenchman Patrice Carteron, the Malian made his mark and was content with a substitute status and a few starters where he regularly showed his impact. “He arrived at a big club, where there were international players, some of whom had been there for several years. So he worked hard, showed his worth and logically became a player who was used more and more,” Mihayo continued.

TP Mazembe’s busy schedule in continental and domestic competitions means that Traore, who has been a Mali international since 2013, is getting plenty of game time. “When I arrived at the club in January 2016, Adama Traore was one of the key players in the squad,” said French coach Hubert Velud. “He’s a fast player, quite powerful, hard-hitting, quite skilful in front of goal, and humanly speaking, a charming, discreet guy who doesn’t talk much. It is perhaps this shyness that partly disturbed him when he arrived in France.

Disappointment at Metz and a rebound in Moldova

FC Metz, well irrigated by its African networks, decided to recruit the Malian winger in 2018. But the experiment turned into a fiasco. Very little used in Ligue 2 and then in Ligue 1 during the rebound of the club, he was even loaned for a few months to Orleans (L2) and then to Al-Adalah, in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t manage to impose himself in France, even though he had the qualities to do so.

However, Traoré’s career was to take off again when, in January 2021, Metz transferred him to Sheriff Tiraspol, in Moldova.

Since his arrival in the former Soviet republic, the Mali international has played in a cosmopolitan squad of 18 nationalities, including a few French-speaking Africans from Niger, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.

The Moldovan club, which dominates football in its country, even reached the group stage of the Champions League, where it beat Real Madrid (2-1) in Spain.

Traore’s good performances on the European stage could see him attract the attention of more reputable sides next summer, as Hubert Velud speculates. “I think this time in Moldova is good for him. He plays, has the confidence of his coach and benefits from the exposure of his club. Perhaps in a few months’ time, it will be time for him to aim higher and play in a more competitive league.”

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