Cheick Tioté is one of Newcastle’s best performing players this season.
Cheick Tiote – tough upbringing – tackles Ivory coast team mate Drogba
And for those of us brought up in England, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what it is like to be brought up in very poor country like the Ivory Coast, where Cheick was born and raised.
Cheick Ismael Tioté was born 24 years ago in Yamoussoukro, which is the capital city of the Ivory Coast, a city of around 200,000.
Like the great Pele – the greatest footballer we have ever seen – in the streets of Brazil in the early 1950s Tiote started playing with no football boots.
Both of them couldn’t afford them – and that was turned out to be an advantage for their skills, because they learned how to control and kick the ball correctly and with the right technique.
In 2005, Tiote was spotted by Belgian club Anderlecht and played for them until 2008, when he joined Dutch club FC Twente. He played for FC Twente 61 times with a single goal.
And of course we all saw Tiote play excellently for the Ivory Coast in last summer’s World Cup in South Africa, when he played in every game under their manager Sven Eriksson.
There’s little doubt that Cheick has so far done very well in his career, and his move to Newcastle United in the summer has been terrific for both Cheick and for Newcastle.
But he hasn’t forgotten his days back when he played in his bare feet, and this is what he had to say about his growing up on those shale pitches:
“Growing up in the Ivory Coast was difficult. I started playing football when I was about 10 but that was only for a very local team,”
“There were a lot of basic materials lacking.” “We did not even have football boots. Some people came over from Belgium and watched a lot of teams and they chose me as one of the players to go over there.”
“It was obviously very different to England. Now we have everything, then we did not have very much at all. The pitches were very basic, here we have everything we need. We are well fed and looked after.”
“For example over there I played for nearly five years barefoot. I rarely saw a pair of football boots – in fact I was 15 before I got my first pair of football boots.” “It was obviously very different but in a way I think playing bare foot helped me a lot.”
“It teaches you how to control the ball and pass from a very early age.” “If you are playing in boots, sometimes you can get away with your mistakes. When playing just with your feet, you cannot do that. You have to learn technique.”
“The lifestyle over here for a Premier League player is obviously very, very different to what I grew up with. Then I did not have any boots. Now I have about 10 pairs.”
“In fact I have so many, that I send some of them back to my brother at home. I also send strips over – shirts and things. I would have really liked that help when I was growing up and it is nice to be able to do that for children over there.”
“I still miss my home (Abidjan) but I go back at the end of every season and whenever I play at home for my national team.” “It would be nice to see more of my family but it is hard for them to come over to England because they always need visas. I do not think they will be here for Christmas.”
“I want to do very well for this club because this club is the one that brought me over to England.” “It is obviously really pleasing when people say that you are doing well and suggest good things might happen here, but I am at Newcastle now and am very happy here,”
Some if us think we’ve had a tough life and done well, but when you look at what this 24 year-old defensive midfielder has had to come through so far in his life, it’s hard not to be filled with respect and admiration for the man.
That’s just one reason Cheick Tiote is one of our favorite players on Tyneside, and we’d love to see him become a Newcastle great, in the years ahead.
And from what we’ve seen of him so far this season, he has every likelihood of becoming just that.