Sunday, September 18, 2022

Ismail Kon of Montreal came into the global spotlight of football. CBC News

Not even in Ismail Koon’s wildest dreams, it would all happen so fast. But the 20-year-old Montrealer sees football opportunities at a pace similar to that of Alfonso-Davis.

Cone set to become – and determined to be – the biggest name soccer has ever produced out of Quebec. Based on how the past few months have gone for him, with rumors of English clubs such as Sheffield United and Norwich City bidding for his services, there is no reason to doubt it.

Con’s race to the global spotlight followed a match in Atlanta in March, where the CF Montreal midfielder scored his first goal in Major League Soccer (MLS) league play. After the game, he received news that the senior men’s national team of Canada was calling him.

“I couldn’t believe it because I was only four games into my (professional) career and I was like, ‘It’s a little early,'” Corne said.

A few days later, he was on the pitch making his international debut in Costa Rica. A few more days passed and he was celebrating with the country as Canada qualified for Qatar 2022 – the country’s first berth at the FIFA Men’s World Cup since 1986.

Cone is on the roster for practice against Qatar and Uruguay later this month and is expected to be named on the final roster for the game’s biggest showdown in November. Without question, clubs in Europe will be watching him closely.

A multi-million dollar transfer from Montreal to the European side seems inevitable.

“It could take my career to the World Cup. I know about it but I don’t let it distract me,” Kohn said.

Steps from Ivory Coast to Canada

Cone was not yet eight years old when he moved with his mother from Ivory Coast to Montreal in 2010. She was looking for a new beginning. He faced a new world radically different from his West African home.

The two were dependent on each other as they adapted to the seasons and cultural differences.

“I left young. I left my family. I left my friends. So, it was a little tough for me,” Koen recalls. “It was only me and my mom, but I went through it and I’m glad I’m Canadian now.”

A soccer player in blue and black faces a defense from two players in light green.
CF Montreal midfielder Ismail Koene, center, played his first professional game this season and is already playing for the Canada men’s national team. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press)

Corner’s mom got a job at a bank and moved to Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood.

“The first friends I made spoke only English and I, coming from Ivory Coast, spoke only French,”

Cone says that it was difficult at first to have English-speaking friends at a young age, but she is now grateful to be fluently bilingual.

Football also helped to remove any language barriers that remained.

“Going to school was fine, I wasn’t that bad at school. But otherwise I’d be going to the park after school or during lunch break and just with my ball,”

Because he came from the Ivory Coast, he naturally grew up admiring players like Didier Drogba.

Drogba joined the Montreal Impact in 2015 and Kon remembers how exciting it was to see him in a game for his hometown team at Saputo Stadium.

“It was incredible, beautiful for me to come from his country, to see him in person,” Con said.

While Drogba was in Montreal, Con was still playing football with his neighborhood club in the NDG, but by the age of 17 he and his mother had moved in and moved to another town at the Saint-Laurent Soccer Club (CS Saint-Laurent). ) had joined.

A young man smiles at his football teammates.
Ismail Kon of CF Montreal at the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League football game in Montreal in February. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Led by technical director and former Montreal Impact player Rocco Placentino, coach Kwame Ansah and others, he was able to put together a highlight reel and get it online.

This led to him being picked up by an agent, who immediately began looking for opportunities to the next level.

European Soccer in Sight

When Kohn was 18, his agent gave him a trial opportunity in Belgium with KRC Genk and Royal Axel Mouskron and while the 2020 stint abroad was relatively short, Koen says he learned a lot about how What do they need to do to compete professionally. Level.

“My problem was that I knew I was good, but wasn’t really doing everything I could.”

He credits staff CS Saint-Laurent for mentally getting him back on track.

“Talent isn’t enough. You have to work harder than everyone else and I was lucky to go to CS Saint-Laurent and get a coach to show me the way.”

His entry in Belgium also landed him on the priority list of Montreal’s professional football team, to be named CF Montreal in early 2021. When Cone returned to Quebec they brought him to their academy and only two weeks later he was with the first team and his first pro contract in hand.

But while it is an honor to play for his hometown squad, Kon never took his eyes off his goal of playing in Europe.

“As a footballer, to me, that’s where you want to go if you want to challenge yourself. MLS is a great move for me… but Europe is where I want to end up, this is where I want to be.” The place is where I want to play.”

By all indications CF Montreal was never under the illusion that Cone was going to be with them for a long time.

After the 2021 MLS season, he offered her the opportunity to travel to Italy to train with Bologna FC, Montreal’s sister club (which is also owned by Joy Saputo). Cone spent two weeks there working with the reserve team.

This was another step to transfer their prize local talent overseas.

When Cone makes his move abroad he will join a growing list of Canadians – such as Alfonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Sam Adecugbe – who are coming from MLS and receiving transfer fees from European sides.

One soccer player in white plays on the ground near the ball, another in red stands behind him.
Ismail Cone, right, in an MLS match against Toronto in June. Kon’s ultimate goal is to move to the European team. (Nathan Dennett / The Canadian Press)

first things first

Before Koné takes the next step, he has some business to take care of at home first.

CF Montreal are in the midst of their best season in the club’s history at the MLS level and will compete in the playoffs this fall.

“Doing something great for my city is something I’ve always wanted to do. Even outside football, giving back to the city that loves me makes me the man I can be today and make it that sport.” I’m in love with someone I love. Even bigger,” Con said.

He would like nothing more than to give the championship.

“I’m grateful. I grew up in this city. … I get to play for the city. I get a chance to show my talent. Winning for this city, it’s beautiful. It’s a blessing, Some players never get this opportunity.”

Con and CF Montreal will begin the MLS playoffs with a home game at Saputo Stadium on October 15, 16 or 17. Canada competes in the FIFA World Cup starting in November and all signs point to Cone being sold to a new team in Europe. During the January transfer window.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here,


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