Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa On Côte D’Ivoire Rivalry, Gervinho and The African Mourinho

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Burkina Faso winger Jonathan Pitroipa is relishing the prospect of upsetting neighbouring rivals Côte d’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations. In the second part of our interview, the Rennes star talks about comparisons with Gervinho and explains why Stallions coach Paulo Duarte is known as “the African Mourinho”. 

The Côte d’Ivoire will be seen as the favourites in the group. Do you think you can unsettle Drogba and the other Elephants?

They’re a very good team and everyone fears them a bit. They have some great players who play for great clubs. But personally I like to play against the Côte d’Ivoire. We know their players well and the country is close to Burkina. If you compare them to Sudan it’s very different. We don’t know much about Sudan’s players or their tactics, so in some ways it’s harder to play against Sudan than against the Côte d’Ivoire. When you play the Côte d’Ivoire you know it will be an open game because they will play to win. That makes it easier for us to express ourselves and to play our game. It won’t be easy of course. When we play them (in the second match) they will need points to qualify and so will we. So it’ll be a difficult game for us but also for the Côte d’Ivoire.

It’s like a derby against the Côte d’Ivoire. Do these games have a special flavour?

When we play against the Côte Ivoire it always feels like a derby match, whether we’re playing at the Nations Cup, in Burkina or in the Côte d’Ivoire. This is the game the supporters of both countries want their team to win, and they want us to avoid defeat at all cost. It’s difficult. We want to win of course, but the best team will win, so we’ll see.

Will there be some needle on the pitch or do the players get on well?

No, we have a good relationship with them. We all know each other. We’re all friends and have played against one another before. On the day of the game we will all want to win. Before the game and afterwards we will be friends, but during the game we’ll just think about trying to get the points.

People often compare you to an Ivorian player: Gervinho. What do you think of the comparison and is he a player you look up to?

There is a similarity in the way we play the game in terms of our speed and our technique. People compare us a lot. Gervinho’s a good player and he’s establishing himself now in England. I’ve only just arrived in France, but at the same time people already know me in Germany from my time in the Bundesliga. Everyone dreams about playing in the English league so I’m pleased for Gervinho that he is getting the chance. Personally I just want to keep playing well for Rennes and for my country. We’ll see what happens but at the end of the day Gervinho is Gervinho and I’m Jonathan Pitroipa.
Two Ivorian artists, Joskar and Flamzy, have written a song about you called J. Pitroipa. I had a listen on the internet and I liked it. What do you think?

The song was written by two Ivorians who spent some time in Burkina. I think they were in Ouaga for one or two months. In fact, they saw a match between Burkina and the Côte d’Ivoire and I played really well. They appreciated my style of play and they decided then that they wanted to write a song about me in order to get people talking about me more. It’s really nice to have two foreigners, especially two Ivorians, write a song about me. It brings me a lot of pleasure.

Paulo Duarte has done a remarkable job since he took charge of Les Etalons. Is his nickname ‘the African Mourinho’ justified in your opinion?

Yes, it’s fair to say he has a similar background and style to Mourinho. He’s a very good coach and since he has taken over he has managed to take the team forward. We have qualified for two Nations Cups in a row. He works well and is doing a good job with Burkina. I think that saying he is another Mourinho is going a bit far. Maybe in the future he can go on to join a big club. I don’t know how long he will stay with Burkina, but we appreciate him a lot. If we can win a trophy or qualify for a World Cup with him that would be a really good thing for the country, for him and for all the players.

There seems to be a good atmosphere in the camp under Duarte. Is that the case?

Yes. Everything is good. In order to achieve our objectives with the national team we need everybody to be friends. We need to say to each other that we can do great things together. That’s our strength. We’ve been together from a young age, we’ve grown together and we’ve progressed together. We want to try to go as far as possible.

Who is the team joker?

Charles Kabore is the person who always has a smile on his face. He’s always talking and trying to make people laugh. Alain Traore also talks a lot. Whenever there is something going on he is always involved. There’s always a good atmosphere.

Do you dance in the dressing room before or after games, or both?

We dance before and after. We always have some music on in the dressing room before the game. Charles Kabore puts something on. After the game there is also a lot of dancing and a nice atmosphere too.

What is Charles Kabore’s favourite tune?

He likes to put on music from Burkina Faso. There is a special song for Les Etalons and that’s the one he usually puts on before the games.

The African fans love flamboyant players like yourself.

It’s true. People in Africa tend to appreciate the way I play the game. They love to see spectacular football. People love to see an individual who combines speed and technique. In Europe, people talk more about the stats. It’s not always easy for me, a technical, quick player. I like to take opponents on even if it means taking a risk. I need to score more goals and make more assists in Europe in order for people to appreciate me more. That’s why I’m working hard to try to be more decisive for my team.