Every year the African Cup of Nations brings out the colour and passion of a continent that is not usually praised for it’s footballing ability.
Despite wrecking the hopes of many Premier League managers seeing their top stars fly off to play a mid-season international tournament, many view it as a highlight of the year and a chance to see what another culture has to offer in terms of it’s footballing prowess.
Chelsea midfielder Bertrand Traore will be representing Burkina Faso at the tournament and could well prove to be one of the stars of the month.
At only 16-years-old, Traore has represented Burkina Faso only at Under 17 level before being promoted to the senior side for this tournament.
He was part of the Burkina Faso side that won last year’s Under 17 African Cup of Nations, beating the host nation Rwanda in the final.
In August 2010, Chelsea signed the young prospect from French Ligue 1 side Auxerre. He rejected an offer from Manchester United in the process of signing for the Stamford Bridge club.
Traore won his first cap for Burkina Faso in September during an international friendly against Equitorial Guinea, this year’s hosts of the Cup of Nations.
Bertrand Traore is looking to be the third youngest ever player at the finals as he hopes to take to the field against Angola in their opening match on January 22nd (Sunday).
The previous record is held by Gabonese star, Shiva Star Nzigou, who had just passed his 16th birthday by two months when he played against South Africa. Nzigou scored in this game making him also the youngest ever scorer, a feat that is unlikely to be beaten anytime soon.
Traore is yet to make his senior debut at Chelsea but hopes that the tournament will act as a platform to show what he can do and hopefully impress Andre Villas-Boas enough to give him the chance.
Burkina Faso’s second match in the tournament is against Ivory Coast, which means he could face teammates Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.
Traore’s elder brother, Alain, who plays at French club Auxerre has also been named in Burkina Faso’s squad.
Their progress to the group stage seems unlikely but Bertrand Traore is definitely one-to-watch for the group stages. Hopefully he is given the chance to prove what he can do on an international level and we will see him in the Premier League sometime soon.